Tribute To The ‘Shark Lady’ on International Women’s Day

Eugenie Clark 1Today is International Women’s Day – the perfect time to celebrate the contribution women make to conservation around the world. In keeping with the theme of my upcoming release, Turtle Reef, I’m celebrating the life of an ocean hero. Dr Eugenie Clark inspired the character of zoologist Zoe King in my upcoming release.This wonderful woman, who died last week at 92, was an author and pioneering marine biologist known as the ‘Shark Lady’. She dedicated her life to shark research, while defying social expectations about women’s roles in science. When you see a shark underwater, you should say ‘How lucky I am to see this beautiful animal in its environment.’ Comments like this helped dispel widely held fears of this misunderstood predator.

During expeditions around the world since the 1940’s, Eugenie pioneered scuba diving for gathering scientific data and making observations. She beat Jacques Cousteau to the punch by several years. ‘Her work in Egypt prompted some of the world’s first shark Eugenie Clark 4protection policies,’ says Ania Budziak, Project AWARE Program Director. ‘That legacy lives on as Egypt emerges as a leading proponent of international shark safeguards, championed by people who still cherish their memories of working with Eugenie Clark long ago.‘ Dr Clark was also a pioneer in communicating her scientific work to the public. She shared the adventures and excitement of her research through lectures, television specials, and articles in popular magazines like National Geographic and Science Digest. She wrote three best-selling books: Lady with a Spear (1951),The Lady and the Sharks (1969) and The Desert Beneath the Sea (1991), a children’s book about a scientist researching the sandy bottom of the sea.

Eugenie Clark 3In 1955 she founded the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida. This has grown into a major centre for shark, dolphin, dugong and sea turtle research. It’s educated countless visitors and launched careers in shark science and conservation. Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, says, ‘Mote has certainly changed the course of my career by serving as a forum for ground-breaking discussion and collaboration on shark research and conservation.’

Eugenie ClarkEugenie Clark never lost her passion for diving, making her last dive on her 92nd birthday in the Red Sea. She continued lecturing up to the last few months of her life.She inspired thousands of young women to follow her footsteps, and raised the profile of marine conservation forever. In a world where girls often shy away from science at school, we need more ground breaking women researchers. Dr Eugenie Clark, on this International Women’s Day, I honour you.



Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay 2Day 7 of the research trip for my new novel. I visited the beautiful town of Hervey Bay, known as the whale-watching capital of the world. It boasts kilometres of pristine sandy beaches and is part of Great Sandy Marine Park. The park covers 6,000 square kilometres and includes rocky shores, fringing reefs and the waters of world heritage-listed Fraser Island. This island protects Hervey Bay, leading to the formation of shallow bays and sheltered channels, which blend into sea-grass meadows, mudflats and mangroves. These habitats are home to species such as humpback whales, sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins and endangered grey nurse sharks.

Hervey Bay 1Reefworld is a small, family-run aquarium located right on the foreshore of Hervey Bay. Using only sand-filtered sea water and natural light, it has been operating for over thirty years, captivating locals and visitors alike with unique displays of marine life. I spent some time picking the brains of the highly knowledgeable staff who are great conservationists and regularly rehabilitate sea turtles.

Hervey Bay 3Afterwards I took a walk to the end of historic Urangan Pier – one of the longest in Australia, stretching for almost one kilometre into the ocean. I was rewarded with spectacular views of Hervey Bay, but was also disturbed by the amount of litter left behind by fishermen. Here’s a selection of the rubbish I collected on my pier walk. Lots of discarded fishing line, cans, cigarette butts, plastic … all deadly to marine life, and just minutes away from being blown into the water. How on earth can people be so ignorant and/or reckless, especially in a place renowned for its beauty and biodiversity? It left a bitter taste in my mouth after what had been a perfect day.




Happy Sustainable Seafood Day!

Sustainable Seafood DayMost people know that today is St Patrick’s Day (a shout out to all my Irish friends, by the way) But many people might not know that last Friday 15th March was Sustainable Seafood Day. Started by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), this day is about celebrating and rewarding certified sustainable seafood fisheries, retailers and champions. It’s about empowering seafood lovers and showing them how their choices can make a positive difference in the world’s oceans.

Our ocean habitats face massive and multiple threats: warming temperatures, mining, pollution and over-fishing to name a few. How can you help? The idea of Sustainable Seafood Day is simple. Only buy seafood bearing the blue MSC ecolabel.

There are seven Australian MSC certified sustainable fisheries. These include; the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF), Mackerel Icefish, HIMI Toothfish, Macquarie Island Toothfish, Spencer Gulf King prawns, Lakes and Coorong fisheries and the Western Rock Lobster; which was the first MSC certified sustainable fishery in the world and is the first to be re-certified for a third time.

There are now more than 200 canned and frozen seafood products bearing the blue MSC ecolabel available at leading retailers across the country. To view the list of these products visit the MSC’s online Sustainable Seafood Product Finder. The other important thing is to check out the Sustainable Seafood Guide, print version or online, courtesy of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. You can even get an Orange Roughy 1IPhone app now, featuring Greenpeace’s Canned Tuna Ranking. So much to learn. Orange Roughy for example (also known as Deep Sea Perch), live for 150 years. They are slow-growing and late to mature, resulting in a very low resilience. How can we justify trawling for fish that don’t even start breeding until they are 25-40 years old?


Every Little Bit helpsAnd for those who despair as to whether or not our small contribution makes a difference, let me assure you – it does. Every little bit counts. We must celebrate even small advances towards a better future for our planet. Let me share the story about the boy picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the sea to save them. A man says to him, “This beach goes on for miles, and there are thousands of starfish. Your efforts are futile. You can’t make a difference!” The boy looks at the starfish in his hand and throws it into the water. “To this one,” he says, “it makes all the difference.” We fix the world one day at a time, one person at a time, one action at a time. Let’s work together for a future full of fish!