What are we doing to our planet?

A barrel not to be proud of. Photo: Zak Noyle

A barrel not to be proud of. Photo: Zak Noyle

Words by Gero Lilleike

Screwing it up, definitely. There are few things that eek me out as much as seeing images like this coming to the fore. To be honest, I have visualised this image before in my mind and it was only a matter of time before it surfaced for real and guess what, I’m disappointed. This particular image was taken in Indonesia by photographer Zak Noyle on a trip to Java, the full article can be found here.

The sad reality is that this is not only an issue in Indonesia, but in oceans all across the world. Pollution is wreaking havoc to our oceans and its wildlife , yet the majority of the world’s population is oblivious to the fact. For many, this is either old news, or it’s not news at all and life goes on as usual with very little change happening. Who’s to blame? Everyone is to blame. Unfortunately we live in a world ruled by financial gain and greed and the effects thereof are left for nature to deal with, while us humans, the cause of the problem, turn a blind eye even though we lose as a result. It runs much deeper than that though for people know not what they do. Educational and cultural barriers stand tall against the plight of our oceans. Pollution is only one problem facing our oceans but the biggest problem is people. As long as people rape and pillage our seas, the worse off people will be. This affects everyone living on this planet today, no exclusions. Our oceans are screaming at us but its calls go unheard while the fires of industry burn. The power of change lies with us and with us only. There is no way out, this earth will have the last word.

Have something you want to share? Be my guest.

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The Sean Samer Interview – Making the World a Better Place

Meet Sean Samer, a man on a mission.

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.

Sean Samer doing what he does best.

[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.

Sean Samer lends a helping hand in South Africa.

[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.

Sean examines a beached Pygmy Sperm Whale in Plettenberg Bay.

[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 s.samer.10@student.scu.edu.au 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.

Sean examines a turtle at the ORCA Foundation in Plettenberg Bay.

The Great White Shark Debate Continued


Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

On Thursday, 19 April 2012, tragic news of a fatal shark attack in Kogel Bay near Cape Town, South Africa seeped into newsrooms across the world. David Lilienfeld (20), a member of the South African Bodyboarding Team, was surfing with his brother Gustav Lilienfeld, in the northern corner of Kogel Bay at a popular surf break known locally as ‘Caves’. Within minutes, tragedy struck when a 4-5m Great White shark attacked David Lilienfeld, biting off his leg. Sadly, after losing a massive amount of blood and despite his brother’s attempts to save him, David passed away.

An eyewitness account by Mat Marais describes an aggressive attack, with the shark returning at least three times before claiming David’s leg. The shark remained in the vicinity for some time after the attack. Naturally, the attack has led to widespread debate regarding Great White sharks and the possible reasons for shark attacks taking place so frequently in Cape Town. Many people believe that deliberate increased interaction between humans and Great White sharks are altering sharks behavioral patterns and may be contributing to the increase in attacks.

On April 10, ZigZag Magazine reported that National Geographic would be filming a reality show ‘Shark Men’  and conducting research on Great White sharks at Seal Island in False Bay. A research permit was issued by Dr Alan Boyd, Director of Biodiversity and Coastal Research – Environmental Affairs. Permission was granted for Chris Fischer  (Fischer Productions/National Geographic) to use up to 5-tonnes of chum over a 20 day period to attract Great White sharks to the research vessel The Ocearch and supporting vessels. It must be noted that shark cage diving operators are limited to 25kg per day.

It was later revealed that Chris Fischer was going ahead with the project despite National Geographic not renewing the Shark Men series and an international petition criticizing the project for its methods and findings.   On 17 April, The Ocearch left False Bay due to a restriction preventing the vessel from remaining in the same area for more that 48 hours. After the attack on David Lilienfeld, Dr Alan Boyd cancelled all research permits in False Bay. The role, if any, which this project had regarding the attack on David Lilienfeld remains to be proven. The City of Cape Town released an official report regarding the attack and claims that “there is no evidence or reason to suggest that the tagging of four White Sharks over a period of 24 hours from Sunday 15 April to Monday 16 April, in False Bay, by the Ocearch Programme had any role to play in the tragic events that occurred at Caves.”

Shark cage diving operators have come under fire in recent years for their chumming practices and websites such as www.stopsharkcagediving.com raise pertinent questions regarding the use of chum to attract sharks and the effects this practice has on shark behavior towards humans. Either way you look at it, humans don’t play a positive role in nature and as long as we continue to exploit and destroy the environment, nothing will improve.

Questions abound, answers unseen, the debate continues…

The Great White Shark Debate

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

I don’t have to look far to see the great clash between man and nature taking place before my very own eyes. As I look over the notorious False Bay in Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa, I see hundreds of sea gulls diving for fish, the Yellowtail have arrived. On the shore, trek net fishermen prepare their nets in hope of a big catch.

Over recent weeks, the presence of trek net fisherman near the famous ‘Surfers Corner’ in Muizenberg has sparked anger and concern over the safety of the many bathers and surfers who frequent this popular surfing beach. Cape Town and False Bay in particular is well known for the presence of the Great White shark, Carcharodon Carcharias, and public safety has been on the agenda for several years now. Two fatal shark attacks and one non-fatal attack have occurred in False Bay in the last ten years and thousands of shark sightings have been recorded with the help of the Shark Spotters Programme.

In November 2004, Tyna Webb (77) went for an early morning swim at Fish Hoek beach. Minutes later she was attacked repeatedly by a massive Great White shark. Tyna’s swimming cap was all that remained. In January 2010, Lloyd Skinner (37) was also swimming at Fish Hoek beach when he too was attacked by a Great White and never seen again. Then, in September 2011, Michael Cohen (42) survived a Great White attack at Fish Hoek beach with the shark biting off his right leg above the knee and part of his left leg below the knee. No further attacks have occurred since.

The Shark Spotters Programme has proven to be hugely successful since its inception in 2004, alerting beach goers to potential shark threats and gathering valuable information regarding the presence of Great White sharks in False Bay. The Shark Spotters Programme is the primary preventative measure adopted by the City of Cape Town to avoid further attacks in False Bay and Cape Town in general, but further intervention may be on the cards.

An article published in the April issue of The Big Issue, a general interest magazine, outlines the possibility of exclusion nets being adopted on a trial basis in Fish Hoek. The exclusion nets were considered by the City of Cape Town in 2006 but were rejected as it was believed that sea conditions in Fish Hoek would destroy the nets, and worse, sea life would become entangled in them. The use of exclusion nets are now being reconsidered but financing, approval and implementation may or may not prevent the exclusion nets from becoming a reality.

More importantly, the environmental impact of exclusion nets on the fragile marine environment in False Bay and Fish Hoek in particular will remain unknown until the nets are implemented. The exclusion nets, similar to the nets used by trek net fisherman, are thought to be more environmentally friendly because the holes in the net are much smaller when compared to the deadly gill nets used in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.

Any net, in my opinion, will threaten marine life, as demonstrated when a 4.3 meter female Great White shark got entangled in the nets of whelk fisherman off Fish Hoek beach on March 11 2012 and sadly died as a result. It’s thought that between 30 and 70 million sharks die by the hand of man every year compared to the 75 odd shark attacks reported worldwide in 2011. We, as humans pose a far greater threat to sharks and to ourselves than sharks do to us, so are exclusion nets even necessary? Where do we draw the line between public safety and conservation? Exclusion nets may offer beach goers relative safety from sharks, but are exclusion nets an environmentally viable option to preserve marine life going forward into the future?

The debate continues…

Fish Hoek beach, Cape Town, South Africa

Save our Oceans

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

For as long as I can remember, the sea has always fascinated me. The vastness of its mysteries is perplexing, impossible to fathom in a lifetime. The beauty that abounds in our oceans is incredible and surfing has given me a unique opportunity to witness the ocean in all its majesty and has changed my life in ways I cannot explain in words.

Many of my greatest memories originated from the sea. One of them will be forever etched in my mind. On a bright, sunny morning in the Transkei, on the east coast of South Africa, we decided to go surf. We arrived at the surf spot and were welcomed by perfect waves rolling into the small bay. With not a soul in sight, we paddled out and caught a few waves, having the time of our lives. It wasn’t long before our friends from the deep showed up to teach us how to surf in style. Five or six Bottlenose Dolphins joined us in the surf that day. We were out there for at least two hours and in that time the dolphins never left us. The experience was surreal and being in the water with those dolphins made me so incredibly happy to be alive. I will never forget that day.

It’s those moments, along with many others, that make you realise just how precious and sacred our oceans are. The fact that humankind is destroying our oceans in so many ways saddens me beyond belief. Every beach I have ever walked on has been riddled with rubbish, the evidence of our sick existence. All over the world we hear stories of atrocities inflicted on our oceans by the hand of man and those atrocities are happening right now. At the same time, many people across the world are doing magnificent work to save our oceans, and that fight must continue forever.


Every single person can do their bit to save our oceans, whether it be through recycling, education, spreading awareness or simply picking up a bottle on the beach, it all counts. In the spirit of saving our oceans, I have written a poem.

The Sea

In the darkness and the deep,
Where the mother yearns,
Do forgotten secrets sleep,
In love, her heart burns.

In the distant light to be,
With wind she must dance,
Her treasures for all to see,
In waves, lies her trance.

On the shore we stand in awe,
Her bosom full of joy,
Through her eyes we see our flaws,
Her soul, we destroy.

No matter what she will be,
Forever, she is our sea.

This article was published on www.72andrising.com , go check it out.

Pygmy Sperm Whale stranded on Keurbooms Beach

On Friday 10 June 2011, a 2.97 m male Pygmy Sperm Whale washed ashore on Keurbooms beach in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. The Pygmy Sperm Whale is one of three species of toothed whales in the sperm whale family. They are a pelagic species, which means they are found in open, deep water. Even though they are deep water mammals, they are very rarely seen out at sea. The weight of this particular specimen was not determined but fully grown adults can weigh up to 400 kg.

Their primary food includes squid and crabs and they have between 20-30 teeth. Not much is known about their breeding habits and their population numbers remain unknown. Pygmy Sperm Whales are mainly found in the temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.

The cause of death of this particular Pygmy Sperm Whale remains unknown. The Orca Foundation along with Port Elizabeth Bay World and Cape Nature performed a dissection on 14 June 2011 to determine the cause of death. Blubber samples were taken along with an analysis of its body and organs. Upon analysis, many parasites were found underneath the blubber however the parasites do not affect the health of the whale. The whale was bleeding internally and decay made it difficult to determine the exact cause of death. No shark wounds were found on the Pygmy Sperm Whale, however, abrasions, possibly from rocks, were found on the specimen. In 2010, four Pygmy Sperm Whales, of the same species, stranded on Robberg beach. Although Pygmy Sperm Whales are a rare sight, strandings are a common occurrence around the world.

 

If a stranded animal is found whether it be a bird, fish, dolphin or whale, dead or alive, please call the Orca Foundation on 082 782 4459 so that the animal can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. For more information visit the Orca Foundation website at www.orcafoundation.co.za

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Orca Foundation

Orca Foundation

Conservation always begins with people and I have had the pleasure of collaborating with great people at the The Orca Foundation in Plettenberg Bay to share valuable information but also to raise awareness around conservation whether it be on land or in the sea. This is an ongoing mission and there is a lot more to come, so keep your eyes peeled. For now, here is some valuable information about the Orca Foundation.

You protect that which you love. If you have an understanding about the environment, you will learn to love it, if you love it, you will protect it. This is the motto of the Orca Foundation, a private initiative supported by the community of Plettenberg Bay and ensuring the sustained utilisation of marine and coastal resources through improved management, research and education. The conservation and protection of our environment starts with the awareness of issues that are affecting our environment. Only once we are aware can we actively participate in preserving our environment in meaningful and sustainable ways.

Founded by Ocean Blue Adventures, The Orca Foundation is a volunteer community committed to marine conservation in South Africa and its success depends on the dedicated willingness of others to further the volunteer and conservation ethics and pave the way for a better future. The Orca Foundation is involved in many ongoing research, conservation and education initiatives in the Plettenberg Bay area. I will be covering these initiatives in more detail in the weeks ahead, but for now take the time to visit the Orca Foundation website at http://www.orcafoundation.co.za and learn more about the awesome work they are doing to save our oceans.

Year Of Our Ocean, YOOO can make a difference. Peace.

World Ocean Day 2011

Year Of Our Ocean is dedicated to the conscious preservation of our beautiful mother ocean, each and every day. June 8 2011 marks World Ocean Day serving the same pupose, raising awareness around the state and future of our oceans that make life on earth possible. This very second, thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, even millions of tons of garbage is finding its way into our oceans and threatning sea life worldwide.

Each and every person can make a difference, whether it be picking up litter in your street or cleaning up your local beach. Every bit helps towards creating an environment where all sea creatures may live out their days as intended. We are responsible for our mess,  we need to change and change begins within. Our oceans need us, now more than ever. Lets do this, together. YOOO can make the difference.

Here’s some advice from Laird Hamilton and Gabrielle Reece on fighting pollution and saving our oceans.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPf1DZm8pl8

Year Of Our Ocean

I must thank the Editor of ZIG ZAG, Mr Will Bendix, for publishing this letter because I feel it’s important to create awareness around the state of our oceans. Unfortunately he didn’t publish the poem accompanying the letter but I have included it here to drive the point home and get people thinking about it.

The Lookout

Year Of Our Ocean – Published in Zig Zag Surf Magazine April 2011

Surfing in the kelpy lineup of Elands Bay on 1 January 2011 was an amazing experience that made me realise how much we actually take the ocean for granted. As surfers and sea lovers, we reap so much love and joy from the ocean. Humankind, however can be brutal in raping and pillaging the ocean for what it’s worth – be it through oil pollution, over fishing, poaching, or plastic, you name it.

That’s why 2011 is so important. It’s officially Year Of Our Ocean or YOOO, an action-driven awareness campaign that’s running across the globe. Everyone can do their bit to save our oceans, even if it means simply pulling some plastic from the sea after every surf. So to all my fellow readers out there, use YOOO to start making the difference. Its our responsibility and the time is now.

The Sea

In the darkness and the deep,
Where the mother yearns,
Do forgotten secrets sleep,
In love, her heart burns.

In the distant light to be,
With wind she must dance,
Her treasures for all to see,
In waves, lies her trance.

On the shore we stand in awe,
Her bosom full of joy,
Through her eyes we see our flaws,
Her soul, we destroy.

No matter what she will be,
Forever, she is our sea.

Gero Lilleike