What do carpet, chocolate and seahorses have in common?
It sounds like the opening to a likely bad if not unusual joke – in reality it was the opening launch of Expedition: Danajon Bank held at London Zoo in partnership with Project Seahorse.
Danajon Bank in the Philippines is one of only six double-barrier reefs in the world (2 barrier-reefs, side by side), and is home to not only coral reefs but also seagrass habitats and mangrove forests.
Danajon Bank is affected by destructive practices such as dynamite fishing. People living along the coastline experience high levels of poverty and malnutrition – exacerbated by rising populations and natural disasters such as the Bohol Earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan in October and November 2013. The consequences of the most recent extreme weather were huge, transforming the underwater environment and destroying mangrove nursery grounds. Thousands of households were swept away.
During this time, Project Seahorse and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) found that they switched role from conservation to emergency relief. Project Seahorse was established in 1996 by Amanda Vincent and Heather Koldewey after they discovered that the trade in Seahorses was much larger then previously thought (more than 25 million animals are traded each year). In protecting seahorses, they are conserving some of the world’s most important marine ecosystems: there are now 35 community-managed MPAs in the region.
Last year, Project Seahorse teamed up with International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) to photograph Danajon Bank. The visual legacy will be used by conservationists to push for increased marine protection in the Philippines: it showcases the diversity of the reef as well as the impacts of human behaviour, and the risks people take in their quest for subsistence and livelihoods – an artisanal fisherman might land only 2kg in 11 hours, earning the equivalent of £1.50.
But what of the carpet and chocolate you ask? Interface, a carpet tile company, have joined forces with Project Seahorse to create an unlikely solution to the waste found around Danajon Bank.
As seen in some of the photos, discarded nets are a big problem for the area, not only causing pollution on land but also beneath the waves. The fish caught in these discarded nets are a wasted resource as they are neither alive nor eaten, but left to rot. Interface is hoping to help tackle this problem as well as provide an alternative livelihood to the people living in Danajon Bank through a project called ‘Networks’. By asking communities to collect the discarded nets, interface is able to use the recycled nylon to create carpet. The enterprise 2012, now involves 892 households in the area.
Meanwhile, Guylian, the chocolate company well known for its quite frankly extremely moreish chocolate seashells is working in partnership with Project Seahorse, supporting their conservation activities and raising the profile of seahorses.
The exhibition is now up and running at the aquarium at London Zoo and well worth a visit.
Now, off to eat my very yummy chocolate seahorses…