It’s an odd job title.
It was not something that I applied for. Not even sure it was something that I wanted. More so, it was something that just happened.
When people ask what I do… my response often gets a strange look. Yet, it is totally true. I am an EcoPirate.
I had been working as a marine biologist in public aquariums. Big ones. It was my job to collect and transport the marine animals for display, maintain & operate the facilities research vessels, and to train divers and biologists to care for the animals as well as work safely in and underwater during the potentially dangerous activities. To help the facility teams to find, capture, and bring back these unique creatures safely and effectively.
It was a dream job for me and it gave me great pride to watch kids and adults light up when they visited my facility and area. When they saw something new or unique or discovered the amazing grace and beauty of a marine animal. When they made a connection or gained a better understanding. When the public that attended the facilities learned.
I have always loved aquariums and could stand in front of the windows that looked into the sea for hours on end. It brought me back to the days of watching JYC on tv with the family. His wise and soothing words rang in my ears and made me dream of seeing these animals in the real world. I often imagined the adventure to arrive at a destination and thought of splashing down and immersing myself in this alien world, donned with the heavy gear needed for me to visit it.
I recalled the days and earlier times exploring with my family and friends. It was different then. There was little understanding or even the belief of the ocean being a finite resource, even though the wise words had rang in my ears, it didn’t feel that it impacted me. The ocean was a place of adventure and bounty. A place where you had ability to bring back your food from hunting & catching fish and other critters while providing adventure and recreation.
When I became a professional aquatic collector for aquariums, it was like a dream come true. I was going to be paid to fish and these fish I caught would then teach people to love the ocean as I do. Win Win in my book. I took on the challenges and reaped the rewards, although my rewards were not so much monetary. It was very special to me
I began to learn more. I went from being the one that was a “tourist” on the ocean to one that was leading expeditions for employees to work. The pressure increased to become effective and fast in efforts to keep operational costs down. I had to really know the animals and locations. I had to understand exactly how to catch the specific animals that were sought for display as well as when and where they could be found. It’s a big ocean, so I began to watch much closer.
Instead of just saying “that was an amazing dive with many fish”. I began to use my knowledge. I began to look at actual numbers. Actual sizes. Specific species. How many of each kind? How big were they? I was spending more and more time out there. I was seeing more and more things.
As I began to see more, I started to notice the changes. What was once easy to find, was becoming not as easy to locate. I had to go further, to rougher places, to locations that were not as accessible. I began to wonder why?….. animals that were once of size and stature with large numbers, were now small and lower numbers, or not even there at all. It got me thinking. It got me wondering. It got me researching. It got me talking.
I began to notice other things happening. I saw so many fish being landed. So many boats working. In every location I went. The commercial fishing boats were there, they were always working.
Flagged from every nation and with men from every race. Built of many configurations and using many different methods of fishing. Some scrapped the bottom, some used nets, some used traps, some used lines with thousands of hooks. They were countless and endless. Not new and bristle – these ships are weathered and rusty. Like the men that work them, they were tough and rugged. They earned their living from the bounty of the sea.
I watched these boats offloading cargo holds full of fish. Cranes lifting, conveyor belts turning, odd machines pumping and sucking out, the bounty of the sea.
It did not take long to realize…. We humans were taking too much. Pieces of a puzzle greater than I fell into place.
I found myself in a quandary. How could I bring these facts to light? What could I do to help save the ocean and her inhabitants that I love so much?