Friday, 7 September 2012

Blog Number 100 - A Miraculous Conservation Success Story


Would you believe it? 100 blog posts and unique hits creeping up to 100,000 in the two years since I started "From the Office..." from a completely standing start, two years ago. There's been highs and lows, celebration and controversy, delight and despair and without exception, as we move forward, the popularity of this project and everything that goes with it is increasing at a fantastic rate and even though you might not agree with everything you read here, you certainly keep reading so thank you. As the curator of the world's greatest online blog about someone from Manchester who makes films about sharks, I would like to let you all know I appreciate all your support.

Since I realised this would be blog 100, I wanted to make it a good one and asked on the Facebook group for suggestions as to what it could be about and I had quite a few come through various channels with a "highlights so far" piece being suggested by a few people.

I had actually decided on that but as it turns out, through a gloriously happy twist of fate, blog 100 will be me delivering some incredible news about an amazing achievement which is, in turn, one of the highlights of the last two years

A Ray of Light from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

Remember Brad? My antipodean partner in crime who, like me, believes in actually doing things!

Since Brad first contacted me towards the back end of 2010, we have shared many great moments together, some great ideas and epic highs and lows, all of which emanating from our desire to actually go out there into the wild and try to contribute, in our own ways, to making the world a better place.

If you haven't seen the video above, A Ray of Light, watch it, then come back and continue reading because everything will all make so much more sense.

What seems like forever ago, Brad and I talked about a project he had come up with, a survey to find out more about the yearly appearance in the Bay of Palma, of big numbers of Stingrays, many of which we have since discovered, were heavily pregnant. The concept being that he could set up a Stingray survey, utilising volunteers from the yachting community alongside divers and try to understand this annual aggregation more, how big the numbers are, why they're there and maybe even where are they coming from and going to after they leave?

This was a monumental undertaking from the get go because there was no money, no real support from government except from our ever-present and always super cool friend, Gabriel Morey. We talked about how, in order to get people interested in protecting the Stingrays, we would first need to know a lot more about them and their yearly visits to the Bay of Palma. Anyway, long story short, a few months later, Brad emailed to tell me it was up and running and he was conducting surveys with a small handful of divers.

I had been working like a dog for two years solid and had just taken the first order for Behind Blue Glass DVDs and figured I needed a holiday. I had been planning on going over to stay with Brad and Bea anyway and then one night, in bed, I had the idea of shooting a short film about the project but not the usual "... this is bad, look at these horrible images of dead things, we're all gonna die" type PSA, more of an engaging story about the very, very rare breed of people who sacrifice, sacrifice and sacrifice all for a cause they believe is worth fighting for. So, my "holiday" turned into a film shoot and the rest, as they say, is history. Read the full story here.

Good to be back in my "room" at Brad's

In real world conservation, that is, outside in the sun, wind, rain, snow etc, where hopes, dreams and self belief are crushed on a daily basis and where the world seemingly tries its utmost to destroy you, the single biggest problem is lack of funding, followed by apathy, everything else is merely a mild annoyance.

Brad was spending all his own money on the surveys, losing working days, burning through fuel like there was no tomorrow, using all his own gear and surviving on about three hours sleep a night, I paid for the production of the film entirely out of my own pocket and battles with beurocracy were a daily occurrance. We needed to inspire people to care about an animal which just isn't as inspiring as sharks or tigers or as easily marketable as whales and dolphins. The issue here was that we had what was a complete oddity in the Med, a healthy population of a marine creature, so we figured we should do what we can to maintain those healthy numbers and use it as a reason as to why marine protected areas in the Mediterranean, especially those around the Balearics, are so important.

Three weeks in Mallorca and three weeks at home and I had the finished film, releasing it to an entirely poistive response, interest in the project increased overnight, we even bit the bullet with the obligatory Facebook page and launched an Indiegogo campaign with the approach being a requested single donation of $5 from everyone interested enough in marine conservation to help with the running costs of the project but social media based animal awareness pages and groups just don't work like that unfortunately and despite only asking for donations of $5, Brad who was by now becoming quite the overnight sensation, found fundraising desperately slow and immensely frustrating.

And herein comes our amazing news...
Stefan and Irena Lawrence

 Just when things seemed at their most desperate, I am absolutely overjoyed to announce that one individual, the fantabulous Stefan A Lawrence, has pledged a donation of €35,000!!

Stefan's family has lived on Mallorca since the 60's after moving from New York, all of whom share a passion for the sea and all its creatures. In Stefan's on words;

"What gets us up in the morning (apart from our rambunctious two year old) are people like Brad and Bea. These are the doers not the talkers or worse yet the takers in life. As such it is our pleasure to work with and give back to the Med by supporting ONDINE's stingray survey."

This is a testament to Brad's tireless hard work and passion and the whole thing makes me beam with pride for a few reasons but primarily that this has all come from a small group of friends wanting to do what they felt was the right thing to do, to start a project from scratch with zero support, to build that project and make it totally inclusive and to achieve what looked like almost impossible goals. This funding is not borne from a desire to gain plaudits, to benefit financially and nor does it come with a long list of restrictive demands for things in return, it's just someone else doing what they think is the right thing to do.

This is a sign that very real conservation projects can be established by ordinary people in the face of what seem insurmountable obstacles, that there are people out there who believe in action over endless talk and deliberation and that you can just get out there and inspire people to help our marine environments. There are great conservation opportunities on your doorstep, wherever that may be. Whilst people may be railing against dolphin slaughter in Taiji, shark finning in Costa Rica, or the unsustainable harvest of Bluefin Tuna, signing petitions, sending emails and creating Facebook pages, there are projects in your area which need your help and involvement so go find them and get involved! By all means do the other stuff too but don't ignore local issues simply because they may not seem as glamorous at first.

This money means that Brad can get the materials needed for the surveys, cover fuel costs, the hiring of boats and maintenance of equipment. This means that more ground can be covered, proper study can be undertaken and most importantly, that we are now no longer hampered from simply not being able to afford doing even some of the most basic things that are required to run a long lasting conservation initiative. This doesn't mean that opportunities to help the project have now closed of course, to keep the initiative running for years to come will mean that financial support will always be gratefully received and you can get involved by contacting brad direct at

Brad's ultimate goal has always been to make the project self sufficient, so it can be grown and passed on for as many people to take part in as possible, he has always said that this isn't his project, it's Mallorca's project and I absolutely love that, it's a sign of the man and his approach to conservation, he doesn't want people kissing his arse or getting his face on the TV, he just wants the project to achieve its goals. The man is a genuine hero.

This also bodes well for future projects, one in particular I have had in mind for many, many years and which will hopefully be our next project. Obviously I won't be saying anything until Brad and I have the wheels in motion but what I will say, is that if we get it off the ground and it is successful, it will be one of the most amazing and important things you will ever see. Yes really.

In the meantime, to our hugely generous donor, we love you and cannot thank you enough, I am over the moon to see that Brad, who keeps this project running 365 days a year, is getting the support he deserves, the man is a genuine conservationist and Balearic marine life has a brighter future because of him and Bea.

This is conservation with a focus on social issues as well given the partnership with Joves Navegants and which is geared towards encouraging as many people as possible to join in and this incredibly kind gesture by an ocean lover means that it can only get bigger and inspire more people. Good things do happen to good people and sometimes, the nice guys get the rewards they deserve and if that doesn't make you feel good, nothing will!

If this does make you feel good, send Brad a message of support, he deserves a bit of love  for all his effort.


Bev Bailey said...

Great news indeed. As a long term visitor (sometime resident) of Mallorca for the last 45 years, I didn't know about any of this. But I do now, and will have much pleasure in sharing it around my friends there in the hope that Brad and Bea will get some more support from on their doorstep. It's also a story to inspire all those who continue to scrabble around under the sofa cushions looking for lost pennies to pay for the next round of leaflets raising awareness of the many different marine conservation issues out there, or to go out to schools and hopefully influence the next generation, or all the other things that the 'doers' can actually do. Thank you, and the Lawrences!

Kosta said...

Hey David. I was chatting with Stefan Lawrence today and he mentioned your blog and the things Brad and Bea are doing. Really great stuff. I posted everything through my network. My lady and I are going to move on our sailboat IKOKO next year. Kind of leaving the office too :-). We are sailing down to Spain from the Netherlands as a first adventure and who knows where we are ending up... Anyways, congratulations on following your dreams, your blog and your passion. Keep up the good work. Kosta

OfficetoOcean said...

Thank you both for such supportive comments, it's great to know that the support is out there! Kind words and support genuinely mean an awful lot so thank you!