“On the boat ride out, everyone is always a little nervous about diving with the great white sharks,” said internationally published underwater photographer, Fiona Ayerst, “But anyone that has the chance to swim with them always returns completely converted to ocean conservation.”
As well as being a renowned artist with her camera, Ayerst is also a representative for the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI), SharkLife and supports Grahamstown based charity, the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST). “She is one of our own up and coming Sylvia Earle’s,” said SST founding trustee and director, Dr Tony Ribbink.
The SST along with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) are currently on the SAMSA SEA Pledge Saldanha to Sodwana Tour. For four weeks the team will be touring South Africa’s coast line and spreading the word of coastal conservation to everyone from young school children to the various mayors and dignitaries along the way.
SST was privileged to have Ayerst as guest speaker at the Mossel Bay stop of the tour. “The research tells us that we will run out of fish by the year 2048 if the current fishing trends continue,” explained Ayerst to the gathered crowd at Munro Manor last Tuesday, “If we kill the ocean, we won’t have air to breathe, it’s a simple as that.”
Ayerst was born in Mombasa in Kenya and had lived as a lawyer in Johannesburg. About 20 years ago, she went for her first scuba dive, and the decision to dedicate her life to the oceans was made assoon as she put her face under the water. “I decided to sell my practice and commit myself to underwater photography,” said Ayerst, “The best decision of my life.”
Ayerst has photographed and dived with all manner of sea creatures, from beautiful big swooping manta rays right down to sea horses as big as the nail on your little finger. Sharks are definitely one of her favourite models and she has photographed, without a cage, all manner of them. From playful blue sharks, to the “marshmallow” like Tiger sharks, to the curious Zambezi’s, “About 20 years ago we never would’ve dived with sharks the way we do now,” said Ayerst, “But we’re finally beginning to understand them and realise that we aren’t on their menu.” The facts of the situation help dispel all myths about these so-called ‘man-eaters’, as Ayerst explained that globally, an average of six people a year are killed by sharks, and around 100 million sharks are killed by humans.
With such a decimation of not only sharks, but all fish species happening in our oceans, the future does appear to be rather bleak for the life source of our planet. However, organisations likeSASSI, SST and SAMSA are doing the best and everyone is invited to help.
By adhering to SASSIs classification of seafood and putting pressure on restaurants to stock sustainably caught fish, we can make a massive improvement to the state of our rapidly diminishing fish stocks. “I love seafood, and now I’ll make sure I start questioning where it comes from and how it was caught,” said Sea Cadet Instructor, Juwayriah Syster, “I know we don’t have a lot left but what we have we must protect, I want my children to be able to experience a healthy ocean.”
South African’s everywhere are invited to join the SST and SAMSA on the coastal tour, to make their SEA Pledge and set their own personal goals of how they will contribute to securing the healthy future of our oceans.
For more information, please visit www.sst.org.za
High resolution images available on request
Photographer: Desiree Schirlinger
Kathryn Hendry of the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), internationally published under water photographer and South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative as well as SharkLife representative, Fiona Ayerst and director and founding trustee of the SST, Dr Tony Ribbink, at the SST and South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) SEA Pledge Saldanha to Sodwana Tour Mossel Bay gala dinner held on Tuesday, 23 April.
Internationally published under water photographer, Fiona Ayerst, presents her talk on the future of our world’s fish at the Sustainable Seas Trust and South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) SEA Pledge Saldanha to Sodwana Tour Mossel Bay gala dinner held on Tuesday, 23 April.
Kathryn Hendry of the Sustainable Seas Trust presents internationally published under water photographer, Fiona Ayerst, with a token of thanks after her inspiring presentation on the future of our world’s fish at the Sustainable Seas Trust and South African Maritime Safety Authority’s (SAMSA) SEA Pledge Saldanha to Sodwana Tour Mossel Bay gala dinner held on Tuesday, 23 April.