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My life after the Gili Shark Conservation Project – by Taylor

My life after the Gili Shark Conservation Project – by Taylor

Halfway through my marine science degree, I became uninspired by textbook lessons and lectures. I decided to go out into the world to do some “life study”. The first stop on my 20-month sabbatical was the Gili Shark Conservation Project.

Starting in Gili Air ended up defining the rest of my adventure. I arrived as a 19-year old rescue diver with hardly any experience, but an aching passion for sharks. I left with direction and a refueled passion for spending my life in the ocean.

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Diving Brings me so Much Happiness!

After Gili Air, I was ready to expand on my underwater repertoire and see more sharks in more places. Being in the ocean with the animals that had fascinated me for my whole life made me feel like my plans had finally come together. I went to Komodo to dive in strong currents with big elasmobranchs, and I began noticing a trend in my joy. Diving is the thing that makes me happiest!

I spent a year in Australia rock climbing, slacklining, surfing, sailing, freediving and exploring new places on scuba. I found a new hobby in a combo of freediving and harbor clean-ups. 

Our two passions combined; photography & underwater clean ups

Our underwater clean-ups became a frequent occurrence that turned into a photography project. I would arrange the plastics we picked up so they caught the light to take a luminous and life-like form. My boyfriend would photograph them, and at that time we had no idea of the effect that they were about to have.

We also would frequently explore the local shoreline, going for bioluminescent night dives and hoping to find the alleged aggregation site of the critically endangered grey nurse shark. In September, the shark nets went in off the coast of New South Wales. Every year, the Australian government sets up their archaic death nets in sensitive habitat for no other purpose but to keep the peace of mind for summer beach-goers.

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Raising awareness for shark net alternatives

Just after the nets went in, the grey nurses showed up. There are only an estimated 300 left in NSW, and the number of sharks that have been caught since the nets were put in is larger than the entirety of the population. But the nets aren’t even their main threat; recreational fishing gear is. We started diving with the sharks as often as we could to collect photos of the lines and hooks that protruded from their jaws.

The photos of the plastics and sharks soon came together as an ocean conservation exhibition. We raffled off prizes and my boyfriend sold his photos to support a local plastic free organization. I gave a lecture on grey nurse endangerment and we raised awareness for shark net alternatives. All this took place in the days before I left to do my divemaster in Sulawesi.

Coming back to Gili Air

For the past seven months, I’ve been travelling and diving, getting experience as a divemaster. I recently found myself back on Gili Air to do my IDC with Oceans5. I really felt such a strong draw to come back here where everything started, and I’m so glad I did. My global adventure is coming to an end, and I’ll head back home to California soon where I’ll finish my degree and work as a dive instructor on weekends. Gili Sharks sparked my passion for diving and I can hardly begin to articulate my gratitude for this amazing experience that all started here.

 

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