Sharks, Helicopters and Respect
Did you know that an estimated 73,000,000 sharks were killed last year – primarily for shark fins? Their populations are down to critical levels and they are still being fished out of the ocean at unsustainable rates. As we become ever more aware of the effects of our environmental impact on the ecosystem, the ocean, covering two-thirds of our planet’s surface, is a region that has been relatively ignored since the 1960s since we started sending people to space. We have over fished our waters and neglected its cleanliness, and it is time to realize that the ocean has enormous value to our society if we can protect it and bring it back to its once plentiful state. A group of representatives from our environmental Quan Cai groups – Coral Monitoring and Beach Clean Up - volunteered at the annual Hong Kong Kid's Ocean Day at Repulse Bay Beach, organized by the Ocean Recovery Alliance, Malibu Foundation, and Spectral Q.
Together with marine activists and volunteers, we taught Hong Kong primary school children about the importance of ocean conservation and introduced them to different sea animals. It was wonderful. The children were very eager to learn new things and loved finding out about the ocean. Our day started with setting up a banner and counting the number of children that arrived with each bus, handing them signs with their school name and total number of participants, that they carried around like a tribal stick. I was amazed by the number of international schools Hong Kong had, each of them having very distinct uniforms: the Australian International School children came in green shorts and bush hats, Renaissance School in purple and white shirts.
After the lessons about the oceans we started shepherding the nearly 1000 youngsters into a living artwork together with teachers and volunteers. Sitting on the lines that had been laid out on the beach, we formed a giant shark with a giant shark with a severed fin saying ‘Save Me’ in Chinese.
Then, walking to the beat of drums, step by step, we reattached the fin, dotted the eye, ‘rekindling its spirit,’ and brought the shark back to life. of the 2nd annual ‘Kids Ocean Day’ Hong Kong. Cameras were installed everywhere: on the beach, on top of the sky scrapers behind us and even on drones that were flying over us. While watching the drones with fascination, another surprise appeared on the sky: a helicopter that was called specifically for this event to not only photograph our shark from above, but also to record its fins being reattached.
You can watch the timelapse here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZkFCabho5s
The shark image is based on original drawings from two Hong Kong schoolchildren, one depicting a shark with a deatched fin, thus asking for a ban on shark fin soup while building respect for an endangered species that sadly, is universally feared. The drawing was converted to a large scale aerial art image on the beach by John Quigley, an international artist, an incredible man who has been very involved with Greenpeace.
The Ocean Recovery Alliance, partnering with the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, and Bonza Pie, along with the incredible help of the Malibu Foundation and Spectral Q who have been doing this for over 10 years, for tens of thousands of children in California, is committed to changing the way Hong Kong thinks about the ocean and the various pressures it faces, including marine pollution. It's wonderful Through fun, innovative and interactive methods, this project will bring awareness to the community about the effects of plastic in the ocean, marine pollution, ecosystem degradation, and how every person can help to improve the ocean's health for the future. It was an incredible expression of the power of young people to raise awareness fort he environment and a great project to be involved with - we will be definitely be doing it again next year!
We even made it in the local news! http://orientaldaily.on.cc/cnt/news/20131109/00176_008.html
Here are some photos and videos from last year.
While talking about the ocean…
Together with my dive buddy Jeremy I went on our last dive and SPLASH Day of the season, a few days before the Kid‘s Ocean Day. As always it was very enjoyable, great people and a delicious barbecue. This time we did not only go out on the big dive boat, but we also had the privilege to dive with Jaime, a dive teacher and underwater-photographer from Australia. He had an eye for the little things and spotted animals that Jeremy and I did not even notice, making our dive even more exciting since we were constantly watching him waiting for our next discovery. You should definitely have a look at some of his photos of leafy sea horses, they are absolutely beautiful: http://www.divephotoguide.com/user/yook/
Darren once again made our day, this time by wearing a T-Shirt saying “Darren’s Shark tours“ and a shark hat. On one oft he past dives, Darren apparently had seen a shark, yet did not have any witness except for a young student and thus nobody believed him. To tease him a little bit, the SPLASH team had made this T-Shirt for him. I mean, shark sights in Hong Kong are quite rare, right! Once we returned from our dive, Darren turned into a multitasking shark: carrying ice cream for all o us and making a phone call at the same time. I am already excited for the next dive season and can’t wait to be underwater again!