Sharks as Stakeholders
3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress
Marseille – October 21-25, 2013
Tagging on a breath-hold
In October, William attended the 3rd International Marine Protected Area Congress (IMPAC3) in Marseille, France, as a contributor in a workshop titled Underwater observation techniques to support MPA (Marine Protected Areas) creation and management. He introduced shark tagging on a breath-hold to a group of scientists and marine protected areas decision-makers.
Storytelling as a tool for ocean conservation
He also presented the film IMAX Great White Shark during the Ocean+Evening event of October 24 in the Pharo Palace auditorium. After having been introduced as IUCN’s newest Oceans Ambassador par Global Marine & Polar Programme director Carl Gustaf Linden, William gave a short introduction to the film explaining how he and colleague Fred Buyle got to participe in the film.
After the projection on the 15 meter-wide screen, a long Q&A ensued during which Winram interacted with the audience doing what he enjoys best when on land: storytelling.
This is Winram’s recount of his participation to IMPAC3:
Attending IMPAC3 was a great honour for me and a wonderful opportunity to meet a large group of passionate and well-intentioned human beings working hard to make a difference. Many were noteworthy and I learned a lot from everyone.
Connect, engage, inspire
Several presentations I had the privilege to attend stood out, for instance those by the Canadian Wildlife Federation at the Pavillion where over the course of three days, Dr. Sean Brilliant and his many colleagues of the CWF underlined the need to connect with and engage people in order to see change in marine conservation. Their modules were very engaging and entertaining and I really enjoyed listening to them. Another keynote speaker was Dr. Elin Kelsey on the topic of “Circumnavigating Hope”. Dr. Kelsey conducts research into the emotional responses of children, environmental educators and conservation biologists to the culture of “hopelessness” that permeates environmental issues. Her project draws on an array of disciplines and creative approaches to shift the dominant environmental narrative beyond doom and gloom. Dr. Kelsey showed us artwork children would draw after having heard different types of environmental messages (doom vs. hopeful) and the resulting pictures were very contrasted. What stemmed out is the need to keep a hopeful message of change in the display of the current state of the oceans, so to as empower the future generation in the face of challenges.
It was very enlightening for me to see the breadth of IUCN, its influence and the amount of work that is going into conservation so suffice it to say that i am very honoured that i was made Oceans Ambassador by IUCN.
Passion gives hope
Among the many highlights of this congress for me was meeting a young french woman who approached me after the Q&A that Carl and I hosted together on sharks and shark behaviour after showing Great White Shark. This young lady is truly inspiring. Why? Because she paid her own way to attend this congress. Having just finished her MSc, she was there on her own dime, not associated with an organization, she was not there because it’s her job, she was there because she wants to make a difference. This is not to take away from those who have made it their job. It’s just very inspiring to meet young people who are that passionate. It gives hope.
Last but not least, when I found out Dr. Sylvia Earle was going to be present at IMPAC3, i was very excited as I have been a huge fan and was hoping to meet her for years. When Carl Gustaf Lundin invited me to have dinner with Sylvia, I was ecstatic. I got to listen to her passion first-hand, it was just amazing to speak with her and be two passionate divers talking stories.
I love her initiative of the Hope Spots. I do have to say though that what gives me hope are people. People like Sylvia Earle, Charlotte Vick (Sylvia Earle Alliance’s Content Manager for Google Earth’s “Explore the Ocean” layer, i.e. Google Ocean), Kristina Gjerde (Senior high seas advisor), Dan Laffoley (Principal Advisor on Marine Science and Conservation for IUCN) and a host of other people that give hope because they genuinely and passionately care.
My passion lies in my interactions with marine animals such as sharks. Honestly, it is my humble opinion that we need to shift our paradigm if we are to be successful, we can no longer view the natural world as ours. We must humble ourselves, although we may think that we are the most intelligent animal on this planet we are solely responsible for the catastrophic state that our planet earth is in.
WE need to reconnect with our world, understand our place and respect all creatures that live here.
And when the conversation unfolds about managing MPAs and discussing who the stakeholders are, let’s consider that they are not just fishermen, coastal communities, governments and scientists. I would like to suggest that we should consider sharks, dolphins, whales, fish and all the living creatures in the ocean who have an innate right to exist in their natural ecosystem as full-fledged stakeholders.
I would like to quote Gilles Leboeuf (French National Museum of Natural History), who was a panelist during the 2nd day plenary wrap-up. Day 2 of IMPAC3 was focused on Science and Knowledge in the Service of Effective Management of Marine Protected Areas. Dr Leboeuf sounded the alarm in the face of ocean acidification, climate change and rising sea levels: “Even if you protect an area like the apple of your eye, be warned that it still may be taken away from you. Now is the time to act against global threats.” His words ring so true, just because a marine area is deemed protected, it does not necessarily protects it from poachers, pollution or injurious human activity.
Truly, finding the right balance between hope and despair is in taking action.