Giving Thanks for a Healthy Ocean

With Thanksgiving near, I’m not thinking of turkey breast or sweet potatoes. I’m thinking about the ocean and my own health, because the two are tied intimately together.

Besides working to educate and advocate for shark protection with Shark Stewards, I’m also a surfer and ocean swimmer. This week I had an operation to repair a rotator cuff, a tendon in my shoulder shredded while working in Asia. For months I haven’t been able to surf, paddle or hold a camera above my waist. I write this trussed up to an iced sling surrounding me like an octopus. For months I swam in the Bay one armed but still happy to get salty while awaiting my surgery. The ocean brings me peace and it also gives me gratitude for my health and the well being of the beautiful animals and plants that live in the ocean. My Blue Mind benefits from swimming with and for sharks, seen or unseen in the Bay waters.

Being injured gives me pause to reflect on the things I love most: swimming, surfing, and photographing in the ocean, all preferably with sharks. It reminds me how interconnected our lives and livelihood are with the sea. The rain outside my window and the weather patterns are driven by ocean current cycles. The computer I am writing on crossed the Pacific Ocean on a ship. The Dungeness crabs that will be our Thanksgiving meal come fresh from the sea near my home.

The ocean touches our daily lives and increasingly our actions touch the oceans.

A NOAA” Reefs at Risk Revisited” report warned that the world’s coral reefs could be wiped out by 2050 unless urgent action is taken to stop threats from overfishing to climate change.

Other studies suggest many species of large sharks could be extinct in our lifetime and half the world’s large predators are threatened. A recent virus has killed millions of Sea Stars along the Pacific coastline, possibly exacerbated by climate change.

I am not thankful for that.

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Sharks, coral reefs and climate change, these things, along with our MacBook, swim trunks and turkey dinner are all interconnected.

Crabs can generate a new claw, Sea Stars can regenerate another arm, but like humans, sharks cant swim or survive with a lopped off fin. Shark populations are crashing due to over fishing and shark finning. Take off one arm of the ocean like the apex predators or the fundamental component of the reef and the other arm of the ecosystem will suffer and die. The system works top down and bottom up, and humans are impacting both.

I am extremely grateful for my time in the ocean, (even swimming one armed) and vow to fight for sharks, including supporting and expanding California Marine Protected Areas, and creating shark sanctuaries.

This Thanksgiving I will be giving thanks for sharks and the ocean, and my ability to take action so we can all swim in a healthy ocean and into a healthy future.



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