My first day back on the boats, I was able to hire a translator to help get a more refined understanding of numbers and my relationship with the fishermen. This allowed me to stumble across our new captain. Meaning I was able to add yet another fisherman to my fleet. The translator also helped at a meeting with the village leader, who is rightfully weary of my presence, in which we made our intentions clear and set some rules with the local village so we can continue our relationship with the fishermen. The translator allowed me to make future plans with the permission of the fishermen and asked them why they were happy choosing tourism over fishing when on good fishing trips, even though they can potentially make more than I can provide them. They responded by saying accidents happen at sea they did not have to leave their families for long periods of time.

Money has gone directly into hiring an English teacher for the entire month to give the children on the island, and the children of fishermen, the opportunity to learn english opening up a future in tourism for them. I’ve also purchased local English basic learning books for the children to use to practice basic English vocabulary. This was a request from the headmaster of the school, who is immensely happy that we have shown interest in helping them and made this possible. The small school on the island where the shark fishermen are based did not have the funding for an English teacher but now thanks to you it’s possible. 

When I arrived for my July trip, I was met with a boat I did not recognise. I have a relationship with one captain who shark fishing boat, along with his brothers, I hire each time I am there. I asked him why the new boat, he went on to explain his brothers’ boat had been damaged at sea (probably on a fishing trip) so he had his friend bring his boat. While alone on the boat with him my translator and I began to ask questions, which lead me to finding out his average income was $500 Australian ($340 USD) for two weeks of shark fishing, to split with his crew, he’s been doing this work since he was 18. He told my translator, before even knowing my intentions, that his next fishing trip was set for august. Which is when I offered him to work for me instead. Now Captain Sahar will not be fishing sharks in August but working with me instead. The third boat would have gone fishing, if not for your purchases. 

Trash management is an issue on this island that damages the local environment and is also something the village leader has requested help with in the past. It also presents the opportunity to have yet another use and another income for the shark fishermen. Using their boats to ferry trash from the island to a local recycling bank which then recycles the waste for financial gain. Money has gone into hiring trash bags for the local communities to fill, which will then be ferried by their boats and replaced again. The introduction of waste management to this small island is a first, the communities that response and succeed could potentially save tonnes of trash from entering the ocean. The process will be a closely monitored part of my project and assist me in pitching tourism to the local fishing community. (By assisting them in keeping their amazing home clean, which is important to them).

A very important part of this project for me is understanding the entire trade, learning the processes and financials involved. Your donations have been a direct assistance to helping me go from the origin of these shark fins all the way to the final locations in the Chinese market. Research into the mark up of prices and the export of protected species is the other side of focus for Project Hiu which has been developing drastically since the project first started giving us an amazing insight into this trade. 

In exchange for signing a document, to obtain direct access to samples will help scientists apply for grants to research the shark species in this area and in the market. I have allocated funds to my fishermen to obtain their legal licenses paperwork and work as tourist operators. This is a big step and an amazing use of money for them to invest in, showing their willingness to continue in tourism.

This was all implemented over only two trips, huge changes and drastic steps forward for our project all made possible by your purchases and willingness to invest in something real. The conservation movement must be based on respect and understanding of the men fishing sharks as supposed to opposition. Moving forward with the project is only made possible by your purchases and the money only going to the most direct and worthy causes. The continuation of my presence here resting on the community and the fishermen accepting me, is being made possible by these small yet meaningful contributions to community. Many incentives in favour of tourism and what we bring with it are being made clear to a community, that has only ever been displayed as evil to the world through their generations of fishing practices.  

Right now, the resources at my disposal aren’t enough to keep these boats from fishing throughout the year or continuously through the heavy fishing months. In addition to this, every new boat is a new challenge to become a tourism charter meaning epirbs, life jackets and more are necessary. The continuation of trash management and utilisation of the boats is made possible by your purchases, and my trip guests alone.

Follow my journey @sharkgirlmadison
– Madison Stewart