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Marine Life & Conservation

An Interview with Marine Biologist and TV Presenter Maya Plass

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MAYA PLASS – Marine Biologist – TV Presenter – Conservationist

Maya-Plass

Born Maya Plass in Kent in 1978, her early childhood was often spent in and around the Kentish rivers examining minnows and sticklebacks. As nature would have it, Maya’s world would follow the rivers out to sea when she was brought to live on the Wirral. Trips to Hilbre Island with her biology-teaching mother would enchant Maya as she explored the colourful rock pools and marvelled at the birds and seals. Inevitably, the long days spent absorbing the wonders of the coast – coupled with a passion for natural history and the great outdoors – led Maya to pursue a career in marine biology.

Her aquatic fate was set when Maya moved to Devon to study for a BSc Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology, later followed by an MSc Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Bournemouth. The incredible beauty of the underwater world – the life stories of the inhabitants, the amazing diversity of food provided by the sea and the coastal, historical, ecological and mythical stories which make the seas so very important to our society, never ceases to amaze her.

Professionally, Maya’s career began as project officer in coastal Argentina, and later on a European project on the Exe Estuary, as she developed sustainable coastal management projects. In 2007, Maya fulfilled her lifetime ambition of sharing her love for the sea when she set up her own marine education business – Learn to Sea.

Learn to Sea enabled her to share her passion and knowledge of the sea within workshops for both children and adults. This led to several trips and projects across the UK’s coasts and abroad – including a life-changing trip to the World Heritage Site Midway Atoll – which inspires much of Maya’s workshop content. In 2009, Maya was invited to work with the BBC Spring/Autumnwatch team as a contributor, and has returned as a regular guest presenter. The experience of filming highlighted a potential outlet for Maya to ‘use’ the magic of modern media to inspire, inform and educate. She has since been seen on BBC Coast and ITV’s Hungry Sailors.

In 2011 through the powers of twitter, Maya had the chance to follow her dreams of writing a seashore book – inspired by her collection of new and old seashore guides. The RSPB Handbook of the Seashore (published May 2013 by Bloomsbury) is full of incredible facts, stunning pictures, exquisite illustrations and the beloved creatures that Maya knows so well.

Maya’s passion for marine conservation and campaigning had led her to raise money for charity in long distance open water swims, rowing lengths of the Thames and even triathlons. This dedication to marine conservation includes her role as patron for three fantastic charities – Sea-changers, MARINElife and Mires Mor. (http://www.mayaplass.com/bio.html)

 

Jeff:

I asked Maya why she felt marine conservation was so important and why more people should take an interest or even care about what was happening in the world’s oceans?

 

Maya:

Sadly we have stopped recognising our natural world as something of value. We wonder why we need to encourage marine conversation and this is all, in my opinion, down to a lack of connection with our marine environment. The sea is, at times, seen as a separate entity to our terrestrial lives and we forget or are not taught that it is the lungs that keep our global system healthy. The sea provides us with atmospheric oxygen from plankton and absorbs (too much) carbon dioxide from our exorbitant and consumer based lifestyles. Our oceans play a part in our global weather systems, provide us with protein, and are a means of transporting goods, a living lab which has cures for medical conditions, a source of economy and a vast and wonderful playground for all manner of water sports including diving. Why wouldn’t we want to protect our seas and oceans? There are just a few reasons why we must protect our seas…apart from them being utterly beautiful!

 

Jeff:

Are there any aspects of marine conservation that are more important to you than others?

 

Maya:

As vast as the seas and oceans are so too are the issues which threaten our marine environment. There are many conservation drives that play a vital role in encouraging marine conservation. This might range from beach cleans to trying to change government policy on pollution from industry. Beyond all of these issues the foundation of change will always be from knowledge and understanding. If we are really to expect marine conservation to happen the very first thing we need to tackle is marine education. Why as an island nation do we learn so little about the role our seas have to play on our lives in land? Marine education has the potential for being the biggest catalyst for marine conservation. If you ask the vast majority of children where oxygen comes from they say the trees despite more than half of our oxygen coming from plankton in the sea. The teachers or children rarely know this fact and this is something that needs changing in order for us to promote an appreciation of the sea.

 

 

Jeff:

Do you feel that enough is being done by local authorities, conservation departments and even governments to protect the future of our marine environment?

 

Maya:

Simply put – no. There are some people trying very hard to improve our future which they recognise relies on coastal and ocean health. We are all responsible in helping achieve this goal.  We all have the power at our fingertips to make a difference. We don’t have to be government policymakers or work for conservation groups to make commitments to ensure the safety of our seas. If we all make a concerted effort we will be closer to that tipping point of change.

 

Jeff:

What more can be done?

 

Maya:

Where to begin? We need to consume less in all areas. The less we buy, the less fuel is used in transport and the less carbon dioxide in our atmosphere which will acidify our oceans and make them uninhabitable for species. I think we need to replace this lust for “stuff” with a pursuit of simple pleasures in the great outdoors. It could be sport or simply enjoying nature and the natural world. This needs to be encouraged from an early age. We need to be conscious of where we source our purchases and of the company’s codes of practise and question their environmental codes. This isn’t always easy and nobody is perfect but the more we try the closer we are to creating solutions to environmental degradation.

 

Jeff:

Do you think there is enough attention paid to conservation in our school education systems?

 

Maya:

Having seen recent discussions about curriculum removing terms like, “climate change” from the geography curriculum I think more concerted effort is needed to educate the next generation. This doesn’t have to be doom and gloom future scenarios but ensuring children get into good habits and practices through their lessons at school, outdoors education and how the school encourages ecological practise within its walls. This is easier said than done when schools and teachers are under huge pressure from financial cuts and growing pressure of reports and documentation. This isn’t just about Forest School but also encouraging marine education laid out within the curriculum.

 

Jeff:

If anybody was concerned about their local marine area or wanted to protect certain species, what advice would you give them on where to start?

 

Maya:

They could get involved in government consultation on marine planning which they could look up through their local council. Coastal counties will have an environment department that they could contact. The internet is always a great source of information to see what could be done and what is being done in a certain area. They could even approach local marine organisations and groups to see if they already have any projects which match your concerns. I think the key thing is to share your passion and dedication with others so they too might become enthusiastic to support your concerns. The more we talk about the sea the better!

Jeff is a multiple award winning, freelance TV cameraman/film maker and author. Having made both terrestrial and marine films, it is the world's oceans and their conservation that hold his passion with over 10.000 dives in his career. Having filmed for international television companies around the world and author of two books on underwater filming, Jeff is Author/Programme Specialist for the 'Underwater Action Camera' course for the RAID training agency. Jeff has experienced the rapid advances in technology for diving as well as camera equipment and has also experienced much of our planet’s marine life, witnessing, first hand, many of the changes that have occurred to the wildlife and environment during that time. Jeff runs bespoke underwater video and editing workshops for the complete beginner up to the budding professional.

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Diving with Frogfish in Costa Rica: A Hidden Gem Underwater

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In the vast and vibrant underwater world of Costa Rica, there’s a peculiar creature that often goes unnoticed but holds a special place in the hearts of divers: the frogfish. This enigmatic and somewhat odd-looking species is a master of camouflage and a marvel of marine life. Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is not just a dive; it’s an adventurous treasure hunt that rewards the patient and observant with unforgettable encounters. Let’s dive into the world of frogfish and discover what makes these creatures so fascinating and where you can find them in Costa Rica.

The Mystique of Frogfish

Frogfish belong to the family Antennariidae, a group of marine fish known for their incredible ability to blend into their surroundings. They can be found in a variety of colors, including yellow, pink, red, green, black, and white, and they often have unique spots and textures that mimic the coral and sponges around them. This camouflage isn’t just for show; it’s a critical survival tactic that helps them ambush prey and avoid predators.

One of the most remarkable features of the frogfish is its modified dorsal fin, which has evolved into a luring appendage called an esca. The frogfish uses this esca to mimic prey, such as small fish or crustaceans, enticing unsuspecting victims close enough to be engulfed by its surprisingly large mouth in a fraction of a second. This method of hunting is a fascinating spectacle that few divers forget once witnessed.

Where to Find Frogfish in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is dotted with dive sites that offer the chance to encounter these intriguing creatures. Bat Islands (Islas Murciélagos), Catalina Islands (Islas Catalinas), and the area around the Gulf of Papagayo are renowned for their rich marine life, including frogfish. These sites vary in depth and conditions, catering to both novice and experienced divers.

The key to spotting frogfish is to dive with a knowledgeable guide who can point out these master camouflagers hiding in plain sight. They’re often found perched on rocky outcroppings, nestled within coral, or even hiding among debris, perfectly mimicking their surroundings.

frogfish

Diving Tips for Spotting Frogfish

Go Slow: The secret to spotting frogfish is to move slowly and scan carefully. Their camouflage is so effective that they can be right in front of you without being noticed.

Look for Details: Pay attention to the small details. A slightly different texture or an out-of-place color can be the clue you need.

Dive with Local Experts: Local dive guides have an eagle eye for spotting wildlife, including frogfish. Their expertise can significantly increase your chances of an encounter.

Practice Buoyancy Control: Good buoyancy control is essential not just for safety and coral preservation but also for getting a closer look without disturbing these delicate creatures.

Be Patient: Patience is key. Frogfish aren’t known for their speed, and sometimes staying in one spot and observing can yield the best sightings.

Conservation and Respect

While the excitement of spotting a frogfish can be thrilling, it’s crucial to approach all marine life with respect and care. Maintain a safe distance, resist the urge to touch or provoke, and take only photos, leaving behind nothing but bubbles. Remember, the health of the reef and its inhabitants ensures future divers can enjoy these incredible encounters as much as you do.

Join the Adventure

Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is just one of the many underwater adventures that await in this biodiverse paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or taking your first plunge, the waters here offer an unparalleled experience filled with wonders at every turn. Beyond the thrill of the hunt for frogfish, you’ll be treated to a world teeming with incredible marine life, majestic rays, playful dolphins, and so much more.

So, gear up, dive in, and let the mysteries of Costa Rica’s underwater realm unfold before your eyes. With every dive, you’re not just exploring the ocean; you’re embarking on an adventure that highlights the beauty, complexity, and fragility of our marine ecosystems. And who knows? Your next dive might just be the one where you come face-to-face with the elusive and captivating frogfish. Join us at Rocket Frog Divers for the dive of a lifetime, where the marvels of the ocean are waiting to be discovered.

About the Author: Jonathan Rowe

Are you looking to make a splash online? As a seasoned diver and digital marketer, I specialize in crafting bespoke websites and innovative marketing strategies for dive shops worldwide. With my expertise, your business will not only be seen but also remembered.

From deep-sea to digital depths, I navigate the complex waters of web development and online marketing, ensuring your dive shop stands out in the vast ocean of the internet. Contact Scuba Dive Marketing for more information.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Save the Manatee Club launches brand new webcams at Silver Springs State Park, Florida

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manatee

Save the Manatee® Club has launched a brand-new set of underwater and above-water webcams at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL. These new cameras add to our existing cameras at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida, and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in Homosassa, Florida, which are viewed by millions of people worldwide. The cameras are a collaboration between Save the Manatee Club, Explore.org, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who made the new live streaming collaboration possible via support of their interpretative program.

The above-water camera is a stationary pan/tilt/zoom camera that will show manatees and other wildlife from above water, while the new underwater camera provides the viewer with a brand new, exciting 180-degree viewing experience. Viewers can move the cameras around, trying to spot various fish and manatees.

The Silver River, which originates at Silver Springs, provides important habitat for manatees and many other species of wildlife. Over recent years, more manatees have been seen utilizing the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers. “The webcams provide a wonderful entertainment and educational tool to the general public, but they also help us with the manatee research,” says Patrick Rose, Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “We have learned so much through observing manatees on our existing webcams, and the new cameras at Silver Spring can add to the existing manatee photo-ID research conducted in this area, as well as highlighting Silver Springs and the Silver River as an important natural habitat for manatees.”

The webcams are streaming live during the daytime, with highlights playing at night, and can be viewed on Explore.org and on Save the Manatee Club’s website at ManaTV.org.

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

Photo: www.avalon.red

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