Heidi Taylor is a co-founder of Tangaroa Blue Ocean Care Society- a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting oceans and the life they support around the world. With established project sites in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the USA, Heidi and her partner Richard have turned their passion for marine ecology into a lifestyle which balances education, recreation and environmental action. NatureScope caught up with Heidi to discuss Tangaroa Blue’s latest exciting collaboration with American folk-rock musician and keen surfer, Jack Johnson.
Heidi, what prompted your personal involvement with ocean conservation?
I’ve always loved nature and grew up visiting the beach. When I became a scuba diver and then a diving instructor I felt a strong responsibility to protect the ocean environment. It is where I make my income (teaching people to dive) as well as where I spend my pleasure time. Richard has been a surfer his whole life and is also a diving instructor and skipper and has also been passionate about the oceans for years. We’ve both had some amazing interactions with marine life and know we need to keep our oceans clean and healthy or our marine life will suffer the ultimate price!
How did the term Tangaroa enter your life, and how is its meaning reflected in your organisation’s work?
Richard and I wanted to form an organisation that would support and promote our marine conservation message. We choose Tangaroa Blue as it highlights the importance of respecting the ocean. Tangaroa is the Maori and Polynesian God of the Ocean – his laws include “if you look after me, I’ll look after you”. This is what we want people to understand – you can’t continually take from the oceans, there will be long term consequences. Tangaroa Blue gives people opportunities to give back and have a positive impact on our ocean environment.
We also felt the need to respect the Maori people as this is the name of one of their Gods. We consulted with several Maori Kamatua’s (elders) about using this name, and we were given their blessing to do so. We also worked with a Maori artist to design our logos.
It’s great to see your organisation thinking laterally about partnering with other organisations. How do strategic partnerships benefit your organisations goals?
Partnerships are what makes this project so strong. Tangaroa Blue works with many groups, individuals, schools and other organisations already doing beach clean ups. We invite them to join in by submitting information to us on what they are finding- engaging people already passionate about the oceans. We also need strong partnerships with local, state and federal authorities, industry groups and other organisations. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel- we want to work as a central place where all these groups can submit data, request data, find out more information and specifically how they can help with the issue of marine debris. We’ve found with this approach, the messages can be spread much further and networking is a great way to exchange information and recruit volunteers.
Who are some of the other organisations, businesses and individuals Tangaroa Blue has partnered with previously? Can you share an example of a previous collaborative success story?
One of our longest partnerships is with Keep Australia Beautiful Council in WA. They started partnering with us right at the start, back in 2004. They supported us with clean up materials, promotions and funding. Recently we partnered with them for the Clean Marine Initiative which focuses on marine debris mitigation in the recreational fishing industry. We also have a partnership with Surfrider Foundation Australia for the Victorian Surf Coast Marine Debris Initiative, which engages volunteers in the area to help out- not only with beach clean ups but also with collecting data on what is impacting the southern Victorian coastline. I’d also like to recognise all the local councils, businesses, authorities and of course the thousands of volunteers who help out with our projects. Many hands make light work!
How did you connect with Jack Johnson and his coming ‘To The Sea’ album tour?
Richard and I have spent many holidays in Hawaii and have very close friends there that are also friends of Jack and his wife. We became involved with their Kokua Foundation and through that they learned about our marine debris projects in New Zealand and Australia. We were then contacted by Jack’s team and invited to participate in each concert on his Australian and New Zealand tour. We have a stand in the Village Green which is an area at the concert showcasing local not-for-profit organisations, giving concert-goers an opportunity to learn about local environmental issues and how to get involved in events and projects. Tangaroa Blue, along with partners Two Hands and Sustainable Coastlines then decided to organise a beach clean up in each location where the concert visited!
How has the Jack Johnson tour partnership gone so far?
Yesterday in Perth we ran a beach clean up at Cottesloe Beach and both Jack and Zach (pianist in the band) came down to help out! Jack’s focus is on showcasing and acknolwedging the continuing efforts of non-profit groups and engaging fans in sustainable local food systems and plastic free initiatives. He will also be matching donations that each organisation participating in the Village Green receives- dollar for dollar up to $2500US! You can visit www.AllAtOnce.org for further information.
What are some of the actions your group promotes and engages in on a regular basis?
We have two levels of marine debris events. Firstly, we hold annual events where we rally as many volunteers as we can to do a mass marine debris removal from the coastline. For example on the middle weekend of October each year we hold the South West Beach Clean Up in WA. This year, over 720 volunteers helped clean up beaches between Geraldton and Albany over one weekend – 46,000 pieces of debris were removed! We also hold some bi-annual clean up events on islands in Far North QLD adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. In November this year, 57 volunteers removed 519kg in just a couple of hours from Snapper Island (close to Port Douglas).
We also have monthly monitoring clean ups where individuals run a clean up along a specific section of beach every 4 weeks, collecting data and submitting it to our National Marine Debris Database. This database is used by local, state and federal government agencies to find practical ways of stopping those items found at each clean up site from entering the ocean in the first place.
What’s a great next step for someone who’s concerned about ocean conservation to take?
It’s important to understand the issue so you know how to make a positive change. Choose to make a positive impact on the environment, put your rubbish and cigarette butts in the bin, choose resuable items instead of one-time use plastic, recycle and think about your impact. This is the easiest way to get involved. Everyone can make a difference- it doesn’t matter if you have one day every week to volunteer or half an hour every month. Every bit of debris we remove from the marine environment prevents it from killing or injuring marine life and seabirds.
When are your next clean ups happening, and how can people get involved?
Our next clean ups are part of the Jack Johnson Beach Clean Up Series. You don’t need to register, just turn up and bring a pair of gloves, sunscreen and some water!
- 06.12.2010 – Semaphore Beach, Adelaide – SA – Meeting at the Jetty at 3pm.
- 09.12.2010 – Kerferd Road Pier, Melbourne, VIC – Meeting at the Pier at 10am.
- 11.12.2010 – Manly Cove Beach, Sydney, NSW – Meeting at Oceanworld at 9am.
- 13.12.2010 – Nudgee Beach, Brisbane, QLD – Meeting at 9am at the carpark.