Conservation is not something that I have spoken about on my blog before but it is something that is very close to my heart. I have always been a large animal lover and actually wanted to be a veterinary surgeon when I was younger! So I am delighted to be featuring Madison Stewart on the blog today. She is a serious shark activist and her passion for her cause is very inspiring.
When I used to work in an aquarium we used to host educational ‘Shark Weeks’ and I always found them so interesting and really opened my mind to how mis-understood the creatures are. Now don’t get me wrong some are very dangerous and I would not recommend just jumping in the water with them but the way that they are slaughtered just really deeply upsets me. So I am delighted to be featuring her today and I hope that you enjoy and take something from this.
Can you please tell me a bit about your background and how you got involved in shark conservation?
Sure thing, I started to dive with my father when I was 12 years old and we spent my school holidays in dive locations around the world. At this time I had a special interest in sharks so that’s where my attention was. When I was 14 we went back to one reef we would frequent when I was 12, only in the short amount of time in-between all the sharks I used to see were gone. It was at that exact moment I realized I needed to be involved in conservation. At age 14 I left school and got an underwater camera housing that I have been using to make films. Since then my career and involvement in conservation has spiraled.
Can you please tell us about the importance of shark conservation and why they need to be protected? (for those that are not aware!)
Sharks are the apex predators, their place in the ecosystem is essential and allot of the fish people eat, and the health of the oceans rests on animals like sharks and all the little things they control by being around. However the main reason their conservation and protection is so important is because they are suffering from human hatred. Any animal gets some degree of love and attention from people but animals like sharks get the opposite, and our hatred for them is allowing companies and fishermen to exploit the species knowing that public pressure wont stop them the way it would if they were hunting dolphins.
What have you found to be the biggest mis-conception the public have about sharks?
That sharks eat people. Sharks do not eat people… they are not looking for humans as a food source, they do not consume humans and when they attack us its usually just a bite, and unfortunately people die from blood loss, but people don’t go missing because a shark has eaten them. Getting bitten by a shark is a risk, and it happens, and they are dangerous, but we really need to understand that they are not out to get us.
Do you have a favourite species of shark?
Tiger sharks- they have the most personality out of all the sharks.
You are PADI certified – how long did it take to get certified and any tips for those thinking of getting into scuba diving?
Anyone can learn to dive in about five days at any dive shop… if you want to be at a high level or be a really good and confidant diver it takes years. I also did allot of volunteer work for experience and courses to get to where I am, so id recommend that. I would also say to people who are interested in getting involved in diving that it is a dangerous sport and be serious about it, learn properly and dive often to remember your skills.
Do you follow a fitness regime in order to be able to scuba often or is scuba diving an exercise in itself?
I do try stay very fit but not so much for diving. I’m a terrible swimmer actually- people are really surprised to hear this- but I manage to be fine diving underwater, fighting currents etc. I rather prefer to stay fit and fast for high paced situations I find myself in and for the fact that I don’t like needing help with my dive gear or cameras. I get enough funny looks already being the smallest person on the boat with the biggest camera… its not in my nature to ask for or need help so I like to be fit and strong.
Can you please tell us more about your equipment that you use for shooting images underwater?
At the moment I shoot with a lumix GH4 in a nauticam housing. It’s the best system ive ever had and although im still learning it its opened up a whole new worlds of filming for me. I ued to just use a go pro on a stabilizing wing that was custom made, I make do with what I have at the time… I spent 5 years filming on a crappy cam corder that recorded onto tapes haha
What are your plans for the future?
I will continue with all my small projects and I also hope to be able to get a second documentary funded for television, my dream is to make another doco like my first, shark girl.
What can I as an individual do to help the cause?
There is so much individuals can do to help, everything I do is to inspire individuals and general public to join in. from choices as a consumer in regards to what you do and don’t buy, and simply sharing the messages about sharks that often are twisted by the media.
There is no shortage of ways people can help… the first step is to take time to become aware, maybe watch one of my films, get passionate about learning more and molding your lifestyle to effect the health of the oceans and become someone who questions things.
A massive thank you to Madi for talking with Floralesque and educating us all about Shark Conservation. It is so important that we all do our part to help preserve the world that we live in and it is vital that we do it now – rather than put it off to tomorrow. More and more species are being endangered or at risk of dying out and if we don’t do something about it soon it will be too late.
You can follow Madi via her website or Youtube. She is also active on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and I would suggest that you take five minutes out of your day to take a look at what she is doing – she follows her passion and her drive is unquestionable in her efforts to help conserve the shark populations.
All photos provided kindly by Madison and all photo credits are to Juan Medina as requested.