Friday, 18 May 2012

A Ray of hope for Mallorca's Stingrays?

Pic by Gonzo

If you weren't already aware, I'm currently in Mallorca for what was intended to be a holiday with friends where I could recharge my batteries in the sun and get away from the laptop and editing duties for a bit.

What started with that intention however quickly morphed into me coming over to shoot a little short film about a brilliant grassroots conservation project being led by my very good friends and partners in crime, Brad and Bea, well, I say "crime" but by that I mean coming up with hugely ambitious projects we don't have any money to do and which take up all our time but which we somehow manage to get off the ground anyway.

The current project being developed by Brad is the Mallorquin Stingray Survey, a brilliantly simple concept which encourages ordinary people to volunteer to take part in twice monthly dives in a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in which they count the Stingrays encountered on that dive in that specific area and where possible, take photographs and videos to help create an idea of how many are there and if possible, why they are there.

The target species is the Common Stingray and once again we can count on the involvement of our friend and expert on Mediterranean Elasmobranchs, Gabriel Morey, to help with all the science behind the data we collect.

I am of course here to capture footage, not just of the dives, but of the people and not to simply tell people what we are doing, but to give an honest portrayal of conservation in action, actual conservation, where people leave their homes and go outside and commit to spending months, maybe even years, grinding through the sun, wind, rain and all other obstacles that life throws at you just to try and do something good. I am not getting paid (it's actually costing me money to do this) and this project currently has zero financial support (something we hope to change) with Brad and Bea and everyone else involved digging into their own pockets to try and make it work. That means early mornings, late nights, trips around the island and the constant putting out of fires (metaphoric, not real, at least not yet anyway.)

Long time readers of this blog will know I am a cynic regarding many things, not least people's ideals of what constitutes action and involvement in environmental causes and during a two hour filmed interview with Brad yesterday (remember those Mike?!) we spoke a lot about the frustrations that "doers" encounter when faced with the overwhelming majority of "talkers" who inadvertently, sometimes even intentionally, get in their way and place barriers in their path, despite claiming to be on the same side. We discussed what motivates the tiny handful of people like Brad and Bea who sacrifice their time, finances and quite often sanity, just to try and do something in which they passionately believe and also the goals for the future we have in regards to trying to have at least a tiny, but positive effect, upon marine conservation in the Mediterranean. Not only are they my friends, they are also two of my ultimate conservation heroes, I don't have many, and they are in elite company.

So what about the actual dives we've done so far? Ray-wise, pretty incredible, over three dives we've seen about a hundred, including some very big, fat, pregnant ladies which is great! Aside from the Rays and considering this is a protected area, there is nothing, of course there are a few fish here and there but an area like this should be utterly teeming with life and it really is not.

The Mediterranean is in severely dire straits and without the Rays, El Delta, the area in which we are doing the surveys, would not be worth diving despite being a beautiful location with crystal clear water, it's no good having great viz but nothing to see.

That is why projects like this and people like Brad and Bea are absolutely vital to the Med standing any chance of not becoming completely desolate, bereft of any life, in ours or our children's lifetimes. If you want to learn more or see how you can help then contact Brad at and if you're coming to Mallorca this Summer and fancy a dive with these Rays, you can do exactly that with the island's best dive operation.

Here I am then, on "holiday" and editing two hours worth of interview with a bad back from lugging gear around in the hot sun and sleeping on the floor under Brad's stairs but it's more than worth it and fingers crossed, you enjoy the little film when it's done.

speaking of little films, I actually will be able to tell you when "Behind Blue Glass" is actually available to purchase on DVD but as is often the case, I am waiting on that info to reach me, hopefully in the next week or so so keep an eye out for that. As for big films, "Of Shark and Man" remains at the same stage as last you heard from me, I return to the UK early June to do a little more filming for the intro which will allow me to complete that then progress ill really pick up. It's a long, frustrating and tough journey but you won't hear me complaining.

To finish off, as we are all now on Facebook, if you are a "Shark and Marine Life Saver" or you like Rays, Mallorca or even just have a thing for long haired, Aussie dive instructor hippies, please let Brad know that you appreciate what it is he is doing and ask how you can put your "shark and marine life saving" expertise to good use in helping with this very worthy project.

If you're one of the many NGOs who has corresponded with Brad on this and other projects in the last two or three years and who still hasn't actually done anything to help, a) why? and b) sort it out please because we simply cannot afford to do it on our own using our own money, this is local conservation done by local people with real, tangible benefits to the local community here and that is what you market yourselves as supporting so contact Brad and he'll tell you how to help.

There might be a short little video with some stuff shot by Gonzo and Brad on the dives but that depends on whether we have the time to do it so if we do, it will be going out here.

Hasta La Vista

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