Fighting alongside sharks:
people that inspire us
19 september '22
Under the common saying “we will only protect what we love. And we will only protect what we understand”, Ocean Ramsey is presented to us as a veritable mermaid who spends much of her time underwater, doing research and advocacy for protecting sharks, the gentle stewards of ocean abundance.
Words by Lucia Peirone Torti
According to Greenpeace, “All the major fishing countries use destructive fishing practices that result in the killing of up to 100 million sharks every year and are in large part responsible for the 70% decline in shark populations globally over the past 50 years”. Scientists believe the number of shark species slaughtered annually could be as high as 273 million, which means there is officially a war on sharks. But while sharks may be demonized in the media, one woman is fighting to change that falsified perception. Ocean Ramsey, a 35-year-old hawaiian marine biologist, professional freediver, scuba instructor, marine and shark conservationist, fights towards proving that sharks aren’t the ferocious man-eating beasts portrayed in JAWS, but 450 million years of evolutionary complexion.
With her soft eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart interactions with sharks, alongside detailed explanations on their lives and body language, she is trying to change our false perception of sharks as monsters to one of awe and care for gentle giants that have been on Earth longer than trees, vital for the health of our ocean ecosystems and economies serving 1 billion people. Ramsey inspires people from all over the world to look at sharks not as ferocious killing machines but as an endangered species that is critical to the water world's ecosystem.
Ocean Ramsey is also widely recognized for her commitment to the protection of our oceans and marine life and work as a passionate shark conservation advocate. Since the early 1990s, shark finning has infected the world – all for an Asian delicacy called “shark fin soup”. The demand comes from mainland China which views the dish as a “status symbol,” selling to high-class customers for as much as $100 per bowl. It’s not healthy or tasty either. Sharks have a compounded level of mercury as well as toxins that are not beneficial to consume. This tradition, however, is deeply rooted in cultural custom.
The war on sharks
With a multi-billion dollar international business at stake, Ocean tells us that Chinese finners comb the globe scouring these sharks, with as much as 25 percent of fins coming from Europe. What we know about this matter in the present is that “They buy out the rights to the fisheries of local areas and then decimate them. They take out all the sharks. They hack off their fins, and they throw them back in the water finless, where they slowly bleed to death or suffocate. Sharks can’t grow their fins back. It’s a very cruel and wasteful process”, according to Greenpeace investigations. Furthermore, sharks only reach sexual maturity between the ages of 15 and 30, taking that long to replace just one shark. This is why it is more important than ever to preserve these animals: we need to help them reach gestation if the life cycle is going to continue.
According to Shark Savers, the fin only represents 3 percent of a shark’s body weight while the other 97 percent of meat is often discarded. And it’s not just China that’s involved in this genocide, but 145 countries that are engaged in the shark fin trade. Indonesia, India, Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan, Japan, Malaysia, and even the United States, are among the active participants destroying our marine ecosystem.
Why Sharks, Ocean?
For a long time, activists have been standing up for marine mammals like dolphins and whales, but as Ocean points out, “it’s harder with sharks.” This is because films like JAWS and programs like Shark Week sensationalize the true nature of these beings and make them feared creatures of the sea.
Since she was a child, Ocean has been fascinated with sharks. At 16, she encountered her first shark ride experience, and throughout the years has dove with over 32 different species before her biggest feat with Great Whites. When entering the situation, she takes care to approach them with respect. “It’s their home, and when you enter their home, you have respect for it.” Now as a renowned shark activist, Ocean uses the hashtag #ItsTheirOcean to remind people to be conscious and observant of the environment.
To protect these extremely vital marine animals, Ocean has started a shark conservation network called Water Inspired to stop the War on Sharks. Part of her activism is to create awareness around the beauty and majesty of these creatures through powerful imagery shot by her friend, partner, and photographer Juan Oliphant.
Join the mission!
Even if you are afraid of sharks, it’s still important to acknowledge their role. Sharks function as the “white blood cells of the sea” and maintain a healthy marine ecosystem. If our sharks were to be eliminated, seal lions would multiply beyond a sustainable level, eating the fish consumed by humans. This would result in an ecological disaster that would have a very large ripple effect. It’s a serious issue that needs attention. Sharks are a critical part of the ocean ecosystem, vital for ocean health and vital for the health of us and our blue planet. We all have a part to play in protecting them.
Consequently, we recommend the film Saving Jaws (2019), available on Amazon Prime and protagonized by Ocean Ramsey her own! It attributes her unparalleled connection with sharks to over a decade of research. Battling a looming extinction, Ocean and her team of marine biologists will travel the globe for 12 months, conducting research and expanding their conservation efforts. From renowned scientists and PHDs, to elite athletes and celebrities, "The Shark Whisperer" will lead humans from all walks of life out of their element and into the deep. It shows her lifetime goal: to give the world the opportunity to see sharks the way she does.
We can no longer just campaign to Protect the Oceans and take action at sea to confront industrial fishing fleets, but we must also do more to raise awareness of the global trade in shark meat, oil and other products. Start by speaking up. Inform others about the issue and latch onto those who are working for the cause. As individuals we have a lot of power, but together we are a force. Our earth needs our help, and the least we could do is listen! To help Ocean Ramsey and Juan Oliphant fight the War on Sharks, visit Water Inspired and follow Ocean’s mission on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.