Finally home after an incredible week up in Glasgow attending the third International Marine Conservation Congress. #IMCC3

Never thought I’d be pairing conference with incredible, but with so many inspiring people about, my little marine conservation heart couldn’t stop from swelling.  And then, what with the whiskey drinking, kilts and bagpipe dancing, my little heart nearly exploded.  Yes it was rather fabulous.

Both Ale and Gonzo from our LAMAVE team presented some of our work from the Philippines to jam packed rooms of conservationists, students, scientists, activists, professors…I learnt a great deal, twitter went IMCC3 mad (if you want to pick up on some marine conservation news check out the #IMCC3), I met a few conservation bad boys, got inspired by some fabulous ladies - Amanda Vincent and Emily Darling to name but two, met a few more of the whale shark guys from around the world and am now desperate to visit the Galapagos Islands (who isn’t?!), Mexico and the Maldives to share notes and come up with innovative ways to study these giants, and above all else my little brain is now buzzing with inspiration!

To share some of what I learnt and to get you thinking, here are a few snippets I picked up from the conference…

'88% of climate change is in our ocean' - Dr. Emily Darling (Just because we don’t see it every day, doesn’t mean it’s not happening).

'The amount of rubbish surrounding UK seas has doubled in the last 20 years' - Calum Duncan, Marine Conservation Society (Can you do your bit to reduce it?)

Success for Peru - '50% of fish in cans are now anchovies, a forage fish, much higher in nutritional value than farmed fish' - Dr. Patricia Mailuf (we need more countries eating forage fish like anchovies, sardines, herring)

'In Thailand 1 seahorse is caught as by-catch per trawler per night - this accounts to 5 million seahorses a year' - Dr. Amanda Vincent, Project SeaHorse - (It’s not sustainable but Project SeaHorse is making a difference using the sea horse to protect wider areas). 

"It wouldn’t be nice to be around during a mass extinction…yet we are in the mist of one now! …..can we stop it? Yes we will, we have to." - Saving the world’s species, Dr. Elliot  Norse 

'1 in 4 ocean species find a home in coral reefs; 1/2 billion people depend on coral reefs’ - Dr. Emily Darling (they’re not just beautiful, they are a necessity)

'There have been decades of implications of feeding (terrestrial) wildlife - so why are we given a free pass to sharks?' - Rick MacPherson (Good question! Think about the tourism you choose to get involved with)

Chris Draper, Born Free Foundation, UK would like to see 'compassionate conservation becoming the new conservation'. He says conservation does not automatically trump animal welfare.  What is the cost to animals in zoos? aquariums? research? Is it enough to say the need of the species out ways the need of the individual? (what do you think?)

“Science matters deeply, but we can’t let ourselves be trapped by the need to gather more data,”  - Dr. Amanda Vincent, Project SeaHorse (Love her attitude - for more info read ‘Oceans need saving before science is nailed' on the Nature Blog)

GLORES - Global Ocean Refuge System - master plan from Dr Elliot Norse and associates to protect enough key places to become an insurance policy for marine life.  We’e got a seed bank, now lets make a marine one.  GOAL is to protect 20% of all marine ecosystems in all biogeographic regions b 2030. (can you help?)

And finally, to quote Dr Elliot Norse, quoting Dwight D. Eisenhower - ”Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”  

…the way I interpret this last one is - we need leaders, but most of all we need to work together because we want to.   Saving the ocean is everybody’s business, we all need the ocean and we all need to protect it.  Check out the hashtag  #oceanoptimism to get INSPIRED and get INVOLVED.

Professional Poo Diver

If you break life down into a series of activities, objectively, a lot of them don’t make sense. Like diving into a vat of raw sewage. Why would someone do that? To find out, we’re asking people doing weird things why, to get an insight into their world.

This is Brendan Walsh’s world. He runs a Melbourne company called East West Dive and Salvage, which basically involves diving in all sorts of no-air environments. One such environment includes sewage, so I caught up with Brendan to find out what necessitates this foul job, and why he does it.

VICE: Hi Brendan, why are you doing that?
Brendan Walsh: I’m doing it because in Australia, we don’t process our sewerage with chemicals. We get bacteria to break down the solids by aerating it with big stirring machines, twenty-four hours a day. It’s a very aggressive environment and moving parts constantly break.

So what’s broken here?
One of the motors. The motors are all in the ponds and there’s no other way to access them without getting in. And it’s completely black down there, so we have to do everything by feel. Sewage farms take thousands of photos of their site, before they fill up the ponds, so we look carefully at the photos before we get in. The diver then makes the repairs in the dark by talking to the guys above the surface. The dive suits are all connected via radio so we can provide directions in real time.

That all sounds like a design flaw. Shouldn’t there be an easier way?
Ah, you’d think so, but then it gives me a job. Got to earn the ex-wife money somehow.

So what is it like when you’re down there?
It’s completely black and you have to more walk than swim. There’s no smell though. All your air is bottled, so it’s actually worse for the guys who have to decontaminate you when you get out.

Do you ever get claustrophobic?
No, I wouldn’t do it if I did. You need two years of training to become a diver and that weeds out anyone with claustrophobia. Also we can pipe music through the suits radio system. We’ll play the guys whatever they want to hear. It keeps them happy.