Our Year of Hope Vol. 7 - Sea Shepherd

Apr 22, 2024

For the year of 2024, the team here at Fifty Shades Greener have decided to focus our energy and efforts into spotlighting small, community driven sustainability projects from anywhere in the world that are operating on a grass roots level.

The world of sustainability itself can often be perceived as a minefield. From the enormity of the climate crisis, CSRD regulations and measuring carbon emissions, the efforts being made on the field by individuals or groups can often get overshadowed.

However, we always say at FSG, that small actions do count, especially when being carried out by many. This blog series will endeavor to highlight those people or communities who are driving REAL action.

We hope their stories inspire you, and more importantly that they spark hope.

Our seventh story features Emma Tuite Director of Sea Shepherd Ireland, the Irish group of this international marine protection organisation.

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization, with a very clear mission: to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations.

💡 Give us a brief description of yourself, who you are, what makes you tick? 

My name is Emma and I am the Director of Sea Shepherd Ireland. Born and raised in the west of Ireland, I grew up in the country spending every summer at the seaside. My mother is a great believer in the healing powers of the ocean so, I remember whenever I was home sick from school, she would drive us out to the nearest beach, roll down the windows and let the salty air fill the car. And the funny thing? I always felt better after it. So you could say that from a young age, I had a love of the ocean. 

I love to travel, to learn about different cultures and traditions. Much like the yin and yang of the dolphin and whale in our logo I want to live in a world that is in harmony, with respect for nature, people and our future. 

💡 Tell us what your project is.

Sea Shepherd Ireland is a chapter of the wider Sea Shepherd Global organisation that is set up to defend, conserve and protect the ocean around Ireland. We are dedicated to helping educate the irish public on the detrimental effects of plastic, overfishing, illegal trawlers in our waters and the floating nets of death, known as ghost nets. While Sea Shepherd has been established since 1977, Sea Shepherd Ireland was re-established in 2019 by some really passionate people that wanted to see the survival of our native marine species. 

Sea Shepherd Ireland are very lucky to have dedicated volunteers and followers around the country to help us in our Marine Debris campaigns. These campaigns encourage the public to join us in cleaning up our local areas, collecting waste from beaches, lakes, streets and rivers. Since we know that every drain leads to the ocean, we are out there cleaning as much as we can.  

Our Stop Finning Campaign- calling for European citizens to vote for a law to make trading shark fins illegal in Europe. For this campaign we knew we would have to grab the attention of the public and so, we did just that with clever street art, speaking to the larger companies in Dublin and around the country. Sea Shepherd are nothing without caring people and caring people are nothing without information to care about. We bridge that gap.   "Did you know that 100million sharks are killed each year for their fins?" 

We are now embarking on a new challenge and that is with the world unseen from land, the world where so many unrecorded deaths and entanglements happen each year, the Ghost Net Campaign. Our team of expertly trained divers have been preparing to dive deep to relieve our ocean of these lost and discarded fishing nets, lobster pots and oyster cages. We are not stopping there, as we understand that there needs to be an end of life solution for the nets we will bring back onshore and for them to be placed merely in landfill would be a crime. We have worked hard to collaborate with companies that will take our hauls to treatment centres, where they can be repurposed, upcycled and recycled into things like jewellery, backpacks, furniture, bicycle helmets and even skateboards.  

💡 What motivated you to start this project?

I was 7 years old when I saw my first ever dolphin show and I instantly fell in love with these majestic, powerful, beautiful creatures. It wasn't until the age of 16 that I realised these aquaparks were pure evil and instead of smiling happy dolphins, the truth was starvation, cruelty, imprisonment and sheer loneliness. It pained me to see any animal in captivity from there on and thus I started to concentrate my energy on getting older, quicker, so that I could grow up to save my favourite animal. By the age of 18 I was ready to start college in NUIG pursuing a Marine Science degree, one step closer to my goal. I fell in love again at the age of 20 with an organisation so cool that I just had to be part of it. That was Sea Shepherd. And honestly, a few (or more than a few) years have passed and that love and passion I had when I was 20 has not left. I love this international non profit for all the work that is done to not only save my beloved dolphins but helping to defend, conserve and protect all of the lives in the ocean. 

💡 What results have you achieved to date?

Sea Shepherd Ireland's Marine debris campaign is forever ongoing as the coast will never be clean and clear from human waste but to date we have collected just over 2000kg of waste from 35 beaches. 

Our Stop Finning Campaign was a huge success and we surpassed the quota for Ireland to stand tall in the fight against shark killers and have this cause brought to the EU parliament for discussion. 

We have partnered with Greentech to bring our message  into secondary schools as we believe interacting with students about the importance of our ocean will help the next generation take up the fight when we are gone.

We have a great relationship with Seal rescue Ireland and have been involved in rescuing two seal pups. We brought them to Courtown, to the Seal Rescue sanctuary and they got the treatment they needed. Two months or so later the seals (no longer pups) were released back to the wild, healthy and happy! 

💡 What have been the benefits and challenges of the project?

The benefits are easy, the knowledge that we are doing our part in helping the ocean survive. Every action we take is a positive move and whether it is to help our global partners raise funds for a campaign in Antarctica or West Africa, Mediterranean or Baltic Sea, we only have one ocean, so all actions, all funds, help.

Challenges come in terms of time/commitment and cost. We are a non profit organisation run solely by volunteers that have day jobs so finding the time in our busy work and home lives can be challenging. We really rely on the generosity of donors to fund any and all of our campaigns. This can be a tricky balance as you want to reduce cost, wherever possible but some things in this world just are expensive. Like boats, scuba gear, bailing machines, fuel etc. 

💡 What would your main piece of advice be for other people looking to start projects to protect people or the planet?

One piece of advice is, do what makes you happy, something you can get joy out of. My passion for the ocean keeps me 100% invested in our work and the belief that we are part of something bigger than our small beautiful island. 

I guess another bit of advice is, celebrate the little things. In a word that can feel like we are met with dooms day news all the time, I've found it super important to celebrate the wins when I can. From "yay! we cleaned up 20kg off a beach" to "yay, a species in critical endangered list was promoted to endangered and is showing signs of coming back". These wins will save you from entering a dark place and always helps me to continue to fight for our ocean, our future and the survival of our planet. 

💡 What gives you hope?

People. It may sound strange when you think that 99% of the problems out there have been caused by humans but people and their hearts, compassion for other living beings gives me hope. The people within the Global Sea Shepherd team like Captain Peter Hammerstedt, Captain Alex Cornellissen, all our Irish volunteers and fellow country directors drive me to continue working hard every day, because together we can change the world. If you would like to get involved email us on [email protected] 

One other piece that gives me hope, I would like to share is the evidence of animals coming back from dangerously low numbers. For example the humpback whales being sighted off the coast of Ireland again after many years, the monk seal coming back from critically endangered numbers partly due to the combined efforts of Sea Shepherd Italy and Sea Shepherd Greece campaigns Monachus Defense/ Operation Siso.  

Thank you Emma and the team, at Sea Shepherd for your time and insight. We wish you the absolute best with your efforts and thank you for leading the way in positive change.

You can find out more about Comfort Felt -  Instagram  and Facebook and by watching their story here: Sea Shepherd Global: For The Ocean - YouTube

If you want to follow Our Year of Hope series sign up to our blog HERE

And if you want to learn more about sustainability for your personal life or for your workplace/ career please book a discovery call with one of our experts HERE 

Thank you for reading today.

The FSG Team. 💚


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