With a menacing grin, needle-like enamel, and a pointy pointed snout, a grey nurse shark isn’t a creature that most individuals would need to encounter. However Shalise Leesfield isn’t most individuals.
The 16-year-old Australian couldn’t consider a greater creature to fulfill when scuba diving off the coast of South West Rocks, close to her house in Port Macquarie, a coastal city north of Sydney.
“I do know there’s an enormous stigma round how scary they’ll look, however I promise you they’re the sweetest animals ever,” she says. “They’re so docile and so curious, they’re just like the Labradors of the ocean.”
The slow-moving sharks, which wish to dwell close to the ocean ground in heat, shallow waters, are – for probably the most half – innocent to people. However the grey nurse shark (also referred to as the sand tiger shark and the noticed ragged-tooth shark) is below risk. Populations have fragmented, habitats have been misplaced resulting from ocean warming and human improvement, and in depth fishing has led to an enormous decline in numbers, in line with the IUCN, which lists the species as critically endangered.
The Australian teenager making the ocean safer for sharks
One space the place they’ll nonetheless be noticed is Fish Rock, an underwater cavern with a vibrant and distinctive ecosystem, 40 miles up the coast from Leesfield’s house.
Diving within the 410-foot-long tunnel, among the many pink gorgonian corals and sponge gardens, is an “adrenaline rush,” says Leesfield. In addition to grey nurse sharks, whales, stingrays, grouper fish and lots of extra marine species may be seen there.
However leisure, skilled and constitution fishers are allowed access within 200 meters (656 foot) of Fish Rock, as long as they use a particular vegetable-derived bait. That is resulting in a decline in biodiversity and elevated air pollution, says Leesfield. She needs to increase the no-fishing space, establishing a 1,500 meter (5,000 foot) protected “sanctuary zone,” to mirror studies which have discovered grey nurse sharks migrating as much as that time.
Her marketing campaign has already seen the world nominated as a Hope Spot, which is a part of the Mission Blue program launched by famend oceanographer Sylvia Earle that identifies locations as critically necessary to the ocean’s well being and helps safety. This has helped to boost consciousness of the fragility of each the world and grey nurse sharks, says Leesfield.
“When folks take into consideration Hope Spots, they give thought to Sydney Harbour or the Nice Barrier Reef … so to get Fish Rock up on that platform is simply such unimaginable information,” she says. “I like to name Fish Rock a beacon of hope for these sharks, as a result of it’s their house … It’s simply such an important place for them and to not have safety for such an necessary habitat, it’s devastating.”
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At present, Leesfield is working with politician Cate Faehrmann, member of parliament and marine spokesperson for the Australian Greens celebration in New South Wales, to legalize safety of the sharks and implement a no fishing zone within the space.
Faehrmann explains that Fish Rock is a essential breeding floor for grey nurse sharks. “It have to be protected to make sure the shark’s survival,” she says, including that she’s proud to have labored with Leesfield. “Shalise is a part of a brand new technology of campaigners talking up for the surroundings and our future is rather a lot brighter on account of their ardour and willpower to save lots of our planet and our treasured wildlife.”
For somebody who hasn’t but left highschool, this seems like a formidable feat, however Leesfield’s observe document in conservation goes past defending grey nurse sharks.
Aged 11, after noticing the harm plastic air pollution can do to the marine surroundings, she began a marketing campaign that referred to as for fishing line assortment bins to be put in in her native space, so as to cut back ocean air pollution. It resulted in a authorities environmental grant value greater than $75,000 AUS ($48,000).
Since then, she has based “Shalise’s Ocean Assist” which goals to encourage folks to handle the surroundings, and began a “Plastic Free Faculties” web site which advises lecturers and college students on decreasing college waste.
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Leesfield’s dedication to the trigger comes from a deep love of the ocean that grew from her experiences of kayaking and scuba diving.
“I assume falling in love with the ocean over time made my ardour develop and made me rise up for what I actually love,” she says.
She believes that the youthful technology must get out of the mindset that saving the surroundings is one thing that needs to be “left as much as the adults.”
“We’re those that can be inheriting the Earth and the ocean,” she says.