Our connection with the ocean

Image: Alifa Haque

By |2022-12-06T13:37:24+00:00December 5th, 2022|Alternative Livelihoods, Community, Fish, Fisheries, Marine, Ocean|Comments Off on Our connection with the ocean

The ocean is intrinsically entwined with our experience of the world, influencing our climate, our air, our food, our energy and more. Yet for many people, particularly those who live away from the coast, what is happening underwater, beyond our shores, feels too far away to contemplate or care about.

But re-establishing the vital connections between our culture and our coastlines, and a sense of shared responsibility for what happens in our ocean, is critical for a sustainable future. In discussion with Anna Heath at a Synchronicity Earth event, four extraordinary women who have dedicated their lives to conserving our oceans speak about the oceanic connections we all carry, the challenges facing marine conservation, and their hopes for the future.

Portraits of Jasmina, Dream, Hannah, and Alifa

Four extraordinary conservationists working with organisations in our Ocean Programme. From top left, clockwise: Jasmina Peri (BLOOM Association), Rujinun ‘Dream’ Palahan (Save Andaman Network), Alifa Haque (Bengal Elasmo Lab), and Hannah Rudd (High Seas Alliance).

Turning points: back to the ocean

“Once the sea casts its spell, it holds one in its net of wonder forever,” says Jasmina Peri. She grew up watching documentaries on the ocean by Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic, visiting the seaside on holiday, and hearing stories from her father, who used to dive and fish in the Red Sea.

But like many of us who held strong connections to nature as children, she grew up and found herself distanced from it. Having followed a career in marketing and advertising, she reached a turning point eight years ago when she realised that the packaging company she worked for was contributing to the plastic pollution crisis in the ocean. She left in 2019 to become a Programme Director at a French non-governmental organisation, BLOOM Association, focused on research and campaigning about crucial issues in the ocean.

Rujinun ‘Dream’ Palahan also experienced a ‘turning point’ in her life when she realised that her career working in oil and gas did not align with her values. Dream studied environmental management for her master’s degree in Costa Rica and the Philippines. Upon her return to Southern Thailand, she began working in agroforestry in the Trang province.

She now leads the Community Restoration Project at the Save Andaman Network (SAN), which became a Synchronicity Earth partner this year. The SAN concentrates on community participation to conserve and protect rare marine species such as dugongs. The more time Dream spent engaging with the ocean, the stronger her connection to it became, and the greater her understanding of our relationship with underwater life.

“I really want everyone to stop, sit, and look at the ocean. Close your eyes, listen. Open your eyes. There are so many more angles to understanding the ocean than the human experience, and the longer you spend around the ocean, the more beauties you will see.”

Rujinun ‘Dream’ Palahan

Collaboration between conservationists and fishing communities

Alifa holding a meeting with fishermen

Alifa’s team includes local fishers, and the group works closely with the fishing community to both include them as part of their social and ecological research, as well as to identify barriers to taking conservation action. Image: Alifa Haque

For Alifa Haque, the beauties of the ocean came in the form of a fascinating order of fish, the rhinopristiformes rays. This includes some of the world’s most threatened marine fishes, the striking largetooth sawfish and sharpnose guitarfish. Becoming fascinated by this overlooked group drew Alifa into a career in conservation. In 2018 she founded Bengal Elasmo Lab to research these fish