I hope you managed to get in the water this weekend!
We recently got news that Interprovinvial borders are now open in South Africa which is phenomenal! With some of the dive charters operating this means dive trips can start happening! Of course safety first but thought I'd open up with these exciting news lol!
The past week was Shark week, this means our socials are flooded with Sharks and organisations sharing about sharks with some productions releasing awesome works to share the gospel. In the midst of it all I couldn't help but ask myself the question of what Shark week means to the greater communities in South Africa, the people who don't dive nor been underwater in a recreational capacity... but also, what I was seeing and the challenges with... lets dive in.
Most content you see about sharks is generally lacking in diversity, be it recreational, academic or productions and the question is why... in my head its a few factors...
Barriers to Entry
Barriers to entry show themselves in multiple forms but here, a discussion about once you have the qualification, the requirement to have been part of an internship, travel to increase exposure to said study and maybe a mentorship aspect that shapes one as the ideal candidate for the job (this could be across all fields).
The challenge being that often BIPOC need to repay loans for their tuition and need to help ease the financial burdens at home which means they can't afford an unpaid internship that at times requires the participant to pay an entry fee in order to get the experience. This in turn nullifies opportunities to travel and practically explore the depths of the qualification, making most individuals not prime candidates when positions come up. Various privileges that ensure minimal entry of BIPOC to see diversity at the top, keeping in place the same voices that are authority.
And then of course the years in practice that make one qualified to speak. If males have always been dominant in the space then this continues for another 40 years before it changes.
Traditional Knowledge vs Western Knowledge
Perhaps one of the things that remain a big thing, the idea that only one set of knowledge can be authority vs the exploration of traditional/cultural knowledge bases that would deem certain ocean surrounding communities that have sustained themselves through the oceans provisions as experts as well.
Abuse of Power
This raised by Jenny and referenced articles, Misogyny & patriarchy seeing itself belittle women, be it in academia or physical ability. This extends to sexual abuse and favours required to climb the ladder.
So I scheduled an IGTV with Jenny Bzzi a Marine Biologist working with Shark and Whale ecology to discuss shark week, it's challenges with representation and how we can change this standing narrative.
The link to the IGTV live with Jenny (a great listen!) and some ideas she shared with regard to how we increase representation,
Share the Mic, when opportunities arise, share the space with BIPOC.
Mentorship, helping others get to where she is.
Supporting organisations like Minorities in Shark Science, where the more they grow, the more the narrative is changed.
And what we can do to protect sharks,
Checking your cosmetic products to ensure that they are not made with shark (eg squalene, an oil derived from Shark Liver oil)
With bycatch being a big problem at sea (when fishing companies catch more than the allotted specie/s which often includes sharks and turtles and endangered species of fish), to be mindful of the fish we consume - knowing where its from and using apps like wwfsassi (or Good Fish Guide if you are based in the UK) that help indicates what species of fish are endangered or almost (we should not be eating), and fish that has healthy populations (we should be eating)
Talk to your family and friends about the knowledge you gather, this helps yo change the narrative about sharks but also enables everyone around to at the least commit to one thing that they can do in the pursuit to save sharks.
Jenny also attached some references from our discussion,
* Dr Catherine MacDonald - Scientific American article talking challenges women face in the field of Shark Science
* Article in Reality Blurred talking issues with shark week and lack of representation
* Challenges posed by Helicopter Colonial science
* Another article discussing the important need for representation
Perhaps this post is to remind us to stay mindful of how we become more inclusive in the work we do,
Happy new week everyone,