My partner, Taro just returned from an adventure filming and assisting artist Kristian Schmidt and photographer/marine conservationist, Shawn Heinrichs on an innovative photo shoot in the Philippines combining art, fashion and conservation awareness. The subjects? Professional model and mermaid Hannah Fraser, extreme athlete and the world's top female proximity-flying base jumper, Roberta Mancino, and of course the majestic, gentle Whale Sharks that have the night sky imprinted on their bodies. The hope is that if more people understand that sharks are more valuable alive than dead, the better chance we have of preserving our oceans and the oxygen we breathe.
Imagine only one year ago the Whale Sharks in this area were getting finned. Thanks to photography and awareness exposing the harms of shark finning, the village now runs eco-tours to view the sharks. As if that wasn't heart-warming enough, now these sharks are part of art!
Above: Roberta Mancino an Italian skydiver, BASE jumper, wingsuit flyer and international model. She has participated in more than 7,000 skydives.
Shark Finning is Bad Business
88 million to 100 million sharks die every year for finning - all for a Chinese delicacy called Shark Fin Soup. 1/3 of open-ocean sharks are threatened with extinction. Shark finning is not only cruel it is totally unnecessary. Shark fins add no flavor, nutritional, nor medicinal value to the soup yet the soup is considered a symbol of prestige in China. The stronger the Chinese economy becomes, the more demand for the soup increases.
Besides how ruthless finning is (fishermen typically haul sharks out of the water, cut off their fins and toss them back to make more room on their boats where they then suffer up to 3 weeks before suffocating to death), there are much broader issues at stake.
Hannah Fraser, professional Mermaid, ocean environmentalist, performance artist and model, posing with the sharks. She is an underwater pro!
If Sharks Die, It Won't Be Pretty
Because sharks are at the top of the food chain and have few predators, their numbers are slow to replenish when a population is overfished. At the rate things are going, we're set to extinguish sharks entirely in only 10-20 years. Being apex predators, sharks keep the populations of everything else in the food chain in balance. Sharks are critical to the ocean because they keep the numbers of other fish and mammal species in check and weed out the sick, injured and dying so that populations of fish stay strong and healthy. Without sharks the balance of the ocean's food chain is severely threatened. With an excess of fish eating all the algae, oxygen production on the water's surface decreases. Climate change anyone?
What you can do:
- Do not patronize a restaurant if you see Shark Fin Soup on their menu. Tell friends and family to do the same. Organizations like WildAid are doing great work to advocate for sharks. Make a donation!
- Join me next summer along with Taro and Shawn Heinrichs on the Seva Trip of a lifetime! We'll be swimming with Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres, Mexico and raising money for WildAid. Subscribe to get the latest updates on the trip.
Above: Taro is the one the left in the scuba suit pictured with Hannah Fraser. Hannah made her childhood dream of swimming like a mermaid into a career. She can hold her breath forever!
Above: Roberta Mancino with Kristian Schmidt. When she is not modeling underwater or on land, she does it while jumping out of airplanes!
Above: Great one of Hannah Fraser with Kristian Schmidt in the background catching the shot.
This video captures the undercover investigation conducted by our friend Shawn Heinrichs who has been a champion for marine conservation. He and Taro have schlepped all over Asia documenting shark finning.