When i was about 10 years old i used to play this game when i was in the swimming pool, you know those vents where the heated water comes out of around the sides of the pool? Well i used to imagine that Great White Sharks would break through these vents and chase me around the pool – very James Bond i suppose, but it definately helped me to win some races using that psychology!
Me with the Shark Week Poster
I was reflecting on this when i was 3 hours into my (hopefully) 8 hour swim yesterday and thinking that although my motives had changed, 17 years down the line i am still relating sharks to swimming pools.
This swim was born out of one of my usual enthusiastic and optimistic (not to mention outlandish) statements; that i would do an 8 hour swim to raise awarness for European Shark Week, whose main push for 2010 is to strengthen the finning ban, and to raise money for a local Scottish shark charity to go towards tagging studies (Scottish Shark Tagging Program), and so after 3 weeks of not particularly serious training squeezed around work i jumped in!
I have to say i found the mental side of things more of a challenge than the physical – yes after 3 hours i was cold and yes after 6 hours i thought my arms were going to pop out of my shoulder sockets but that can be pushed through a lot easier than the “oh wow i’ve still got 6 hours to go…” or the “half an hour must have gone by… what? only 10 minutes?! that clock can’t be right?!!” , of course i had initially said i would aim for 8 hours but my collapse before. However for those of you who know me should know by now that it would be 8 hours or nothing! I did it, i swam for 8 hours, i covered 12 miles and i burnt over 4000 calories. Its true i enjoyed the physical challenge as much as i enjoyed raising awareness and collecting money for the European Shark Week and the SSTP!
I think i have raised close to £400 although will post an update to this once everything has been collected and totalled up! I will also post up my training and nutrition schedule for those of you who are interested…
Fuel and European Shark Week Badges on my “wave mat” at home!
I hope i have made a small bit of difference by doing the swim, on Wednesday night i watched SharkWater for the umpteenth time to fuel my mind and make me go for it on the swim even more so, shark finning is a horrendous practice and utterly wasteful, sharks are caught, hauled up on board the fishing vessels their fins are sliced off and then their bodies are thrown back overboard leaving the shark to either drown or bleed to death, its a huge problem to overcome on so many different levels from the people who go out and actually fin the sharks, to the consumers of the (chicken/pork flavoured) “shark fin” soup, to the shark finning mafia driving the finning operations. But basic laws are in place, these need to be strengthened, tightened and policed to close loop holes and rid this practice in its entirety.
Its a large undertaking but it’s no good just reflecting on how awfull a situation is, stand up, take action, be heard and change things for the better!
Palau is unlike many other countries in that it actually recognizes what it has i.e.: world class dive sites and instead of ruining and exploiting such a resource it embraces it and protects it.
I was particularly interested in how they were putting into practice their shark sanctuary policy (as unveiled to the world in September 2009) which banned the landing of sharks or shark fins by local or international vessels in Palauan waters. How is it policed? Does it work?
It is likely that to make such a bold statement as to declare your national waters a shark sanctuary you would have to be sure it would work, and of course it does.
Although in truth I believe if it was going to work anywhere it would be here due to a number of reasons; there was no existing international trade of shark meat or shark products, local fishermen avoid catching shark as they cannot sell it and Palauan’s do not eat it themselves.
Most of the islands are considered National Parks and so permits are required for visitors which are inspected by park rangers and finally the dive companies are savvy when it comes to issuing visitors with permits (it reflects badly on the company if their customers are not in possession of a valid permit and has consequences to boot) as well as their almost daily presence within their waters which must act as a strong deterrent to any international fishing vessels.
The ocean itself is also fundamental to the story of the creation of Palau (the country being born from a giant clam) as well as ocean practices such as fishing being featured in numerous folklore; being used to teach several morals and values.
For a country which only claimed independence in 1994 (having been owned/occupied by Spain, Germany, Japan and the United States). Palau stands in its own right as an example I wish we all could follow as a haven for sharks and other reef life. I must leave now, however I am keen to return especially during March time which is the Grey Reef Shark breeding season, which see’s specific dive sites teem with hundreds of shark’s (imagine that – perfection!).
So as I return to Manila for a final time, I can reflect on what an amazing time I have had both in the Philippines and Palau.
I would like to express my gratitude to Donsol Eco-Tour who enabled me to have some truly amazing encounters with Whale sharks which I will never forget, The TSRCP which gave me Thresher Sharks and so much more besides, Fish N’ Fins a super-duper dive experience in Palau and of course the guys at SSACN and SSTP who without which my computer illiterate self would never have been able to make this blog possible!
Finally thanks to all who kept up to date with this blog, I hope you found it informative and entertaining and I hope that in the future there will be plenty more like it!
Am I ready to go home for a while? Am I heck … bring on the next adventure!