This is the first interview I’ve done specifically for Leatherfoot-On The Move and I have more planned in the future. The world is full of interesting people and it’s always refreshing to hear what they have to say, because you can always learn something new. I met Shaun in Plettenberg Bay in 2011 and have been friends with him ever since, he’s just that kind of guy. Hearing his accent for the first time led me to believe that he hailed from a remote farm in the Karoo, maybe it was the beer, but I was very, very wrong.
There are many people around the world who work tirelessly to help conserve and preserve the natural world. These people are dedicated and passionate about their work, they put energy into it, they live it. It’s not everyday you meet someone who has this passion beaming from their eyes, body and mind, ready to pounce into action and do their bit to help our ailing planet. Sean Samer is one of these people, a nature conservationist, a friend of nature, a lover of the ocean and a great man. I haven’t seen Sean in almost a year, so I decided to ask him a few questions to find out more about his passion for life and the natural world.
[GL] For those of us who don’t know you personally, tell us, who are you and where are you from?
[SS] My name is Sean Samer. I am twenty two years old and I’m from the small town of Coffs Harbour in Australia. It was a good place to grow up, with lots of wildlife, beautiful beaches, perfect for anyone who is into nature and it doesn’t have that big city kind of vibe. I am now living on the Gold Coast where I’m studying at university. It’s just as beautiful as Coffs Harbour and is closer to Byron Bay, one of my favourite places in the world.
[GL] How did you get into nature conservation?
[SS] With an influence from my parents, especially my dad, from a Native American point of view, I was always connected to nature in a way I couldn’t really understand until I was much older. I first encountered a white tip reef shark on the Great Barrier Reef when I was young. It chased me out to the shallows and I was screaming and running away. That was a profound experience for me. Although I was scared, I also wanted to know more about this creature. After that, I spent months reading every book about sharks and after understanding the animal, I then found out that these creatures were in danger. I then realised this was the case for most animals due to the influence of humans. It was only when I went to South Africa and spent time at the Ocean Research Conservation Africa Foundation (ORCA Foundation) in 2010 that I realised that I myself could make a difference and could pursue my passion and help conserve nature to the best of my ability.
[GL] What nature conservation initiatives have you been involved in so far?
[SS] I’ve been involved in a few projects so far. However, since I’m studying, it’s hard to be involved at the moment, so I’m focusing on finishing my course and then becoming more involved in projects in the area. So far, I have taken part in conservation initiatives such as dolphin and whale research, turtle, seahorse and seal rehabilitation, river health analysis, beach cleanups, community development, education, pollution management in townships in South Africa and many more. I also want to start my own projects in the Gold Coast region in the near future.
[GL] What are you studying?
[SS] At the moment I’m studying marine science and management. I am more interested in the marine aspect of conservation so I feel this degree would be an essential step towards my career path and it also teaches aspects of conservation and focuses on environmental and global issues as well.
[GL] What is your sole mission as a nature conservationist in the 21st Century?
[SS] The best thing about the present time is that there are so many individual organisations that are stepping up to do something about global issues and in a conservation aspect. My main goal at the moment is to tackle more ‘under the radar projects’ that the bigger organisations aren’t really focusing on but are still relevant and could potentially become a larger problem. I am also trying to bring awareness to the younger generation because it’s important for them to understand these situations, and if they can understand at a younger age then the future may just hold a more conservational outlook, which is what’s needed.
[GL] What are the major challenges facing marine conservation in the world today?
[SS] The bigger the global issue the more challenges arise. Basically there are so many laws and negative attitudes that stand in the way of conservationists, especially in this day and age. It’s important to try to understand the mindset involved in these situations. For example a company that is making vast amounts of money from fishing trawlers is going to think, okay, so these conservationists are telling us that there are only 10 percent of the fish population left in the ocean, even though we catch loads of fish everyday, and on the plus side we are making amazing amounts of money, what do you think they are going to do? Especially in a world where money is an important factor, there is no way anyone can stop fishing.
The purpose of realistic conservation is more to reduce the amount of over-fishing taking place in order to sustain the populations of fish species, so that way, fisherman still have work and fish species may have a chance to replenish. However, there will still be a major effect on the fish population as people have a way around laws, especially when money is involved.
[GL] You mentioned that you want to start your own projects on the Gold Coast, can you elaborate and explain what these projects are and what they aim to achieve?
[SS] I figure that between Queensland and NSW, the Gold Coast region is one that is most heavily influenced by humans and has a need for conservation due to the high level of tourism and the population of people residing there. It also has beautiful beaches and marine life, if you know where to look. I feel like there is a lot that can be done here and I have a few ideas such as beach cleanups, dune care, dolphin distribution and whale migration research and also conservation education in schools and for the public. I have more ideas coming and it’s still a work in progress and hopefully in my time off from University I will get a few things going.
[GL] Do you have any words of wisdom you want to share with the people of the world?
[SS] One quote which I think about every day is a Native American quote my dad told me when I was young, it goes like this, “Only after the last tree has been cut down, the last river has been polluted and the last fish has been caught, will we realise that money cannot be eaten”. The truth behind this quote is more relevant than ever in today’s world and it scares me.
The one thing I don’t want in life is to one day have children, a house and a steady income but then have my kids ask me “dad what was a whale? “ or “ how come I see pictures and there used to be lots of fish and now there is hardly any?”. I want to be able to take my kids to a headland and show a whale breaching and I will work as hard as I can to make sure that this is possible.
[GL] What advice can you give people who are seeking a career in nature conservation?
[SS] Even though I haven’t exactly reached the level of having a career in conservation, my best advice is that it’s all about passion. My passion definitely gets the better of me, however, it has put me in the mindset where I’m not in this to make money or anything. It’s more about seeing the ways in which nature is being affected by global issues and me feeling the absolute need to just help.
The more issues I find out about, which is basically an endless list as far as I’m concerned, the more my passion flares and I know either way in life I’m going to pursue this passion with everything I have. Passion is a very underrated thing and it’s very useful in terms of conservation.
[GL] How can people get hold of you and be part of your projects?
[SS] I can be reached by email at email@example.com and I will be putting more information about the projects on Facebook.
[GL] Thanks for the chat Sean, the world needs more people like you, keep up the good work and keep me updated.
[SS] Will do, thanks for your time Gero, cheers.