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We all know that our oceans are in trouble and that taking action to protect and fight for them is incredibly important. But it can also be hard to motivate yourself to keep going, especially when it feels like change isn’t happening. But we are slowly turning the tide – and that is what this episode is all about. In honour of World Ocean’s Day (June 8th), host Isla sits down with Sarah Fowler OBE to discuss some of the actions YOU are taking to help save our seas and talk about how they are contributing to a positive impact worldwide.
First, we talk about Sarah’s extensive career in marine and shark conservation. We begin with her most memorable experience, which takes us down a slight tangent about the movie Jaws and a James Bond-style boat chase [07.03]! Sarah then tells us her reasons for loving the ocean and her motivation to fight for its protection [12.54]. It all stemmed from her childhood holidays at the seaside and her ‘eccentric’ grandmother who had a penchant for shell collecting [13.43]. This then led to a master’s degree in conservation, which trained Sarah is working for nature conservation agencies in the UK [15.23]. Her career then blossomed into advising the UK government on marine conservation and monitoring, where she worked tirelessly to get protections put in place for sharks, rays and skates. In her own words, she ‘made a nuisance of herself’ – and we are so glad that she did!
After discussing Sarah’s career, we move on to some stories of ocean optimism – some of the things that keep Sarah fighting for the ocean [19.44]. She says she is seeing things changing, because of all the people involved and the change in public perception [20.00]. We are seeing positive changes in some shark populations, thanks to actions like the retention ban on north Atlantic shortfin makos [23.33] and the addition of some species of sharks and rays to CITES [29.21]. We talk about the role of the public in these decisions and the power of using your voice and choices as a consumer to drive such changes.
This brings us to the ‘ocean wins’ that were sent in by our listeners! First, we give a shoutout to some early-career scientists who got in touch to say that they are working to better understand and protect sharks, and we discuss just how much science has advanced in the last few decades to bring us more and more information and discoveries that can help conserve endangered species [36.00]. Of course, you don’t have to be a scientist to make a difference – we also celebrate some of our listeners who are making lifestyle changes to be more environmentally conscious [41.21]. Sarah says that she is seeing these changes on a worldwide scale, and talks about how little changes can go a long way when carried out by lots of people across the globe. It’s easy to think that you’re alone – but you are definitely not: “a little thing is not little when millions of people are doing it” [42.90]. This also links to the listeners who got in touch to say that they are using education and communication to encourage others to take similar actions [43.34]. Finally, we discuss plant-based eating and reducing fish intake, which some listeners wrote in to say they had committed to [45.00]. Sarah discusses the possibility of sustainable fisheries, and whether we are making progress towards that goal. In short, she does think this is possible – not for every species, but for some – and already is happening in some parts of the world thanks to the demand from consumers, public pressure and better science and technology.
We finish the episode with Sarah’s powerful message to our listeners for World Ocean’s Day [53.21]
“Just know that every single one of you makes a difference…we can’t all do everything, that would be ridiculous, but we can all do a little bit. And keep doing your little bit, please. Because the oceans need our love, and we need them.”
Sarah Fowler is a scientific advisor for the Save Our Seas Foundation and founding trustee of the Shark Trust, which is a UK member of the European Elasmobranch Association. Sarah has worked in marine ecology, conservation and management for over 30 years, and has worked in various capacities for government departments, national and international NGOs and a biodiversity consultancy. She was chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Shark Specialist Group for many years and is now its vice-chair for international treaties. She is also co-founder of the European Elasmobranch Association and was appointed a pew fellow in marine conservation in 2005. In 2004 she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to marine conservation.