Welcome to our "Ocean Passion Series" where we are interviewing ordinary people doing extraordinary actions for the ocean. We believe learning from others can help our own life become more engaged and inspired. This week we have a special guest from Toronto, Canada who absolutely loves to speak for the voiceless sharks.
Hello Ella! Thank you for joining us today. Can you tell us about yourself and where you are in the world ?
My name is Ella Grace, I am 7 years old. My birthday is March 6th, and I am home-schooled. I love being home-schooled because I get to spend a lot of time learning about Sharks and the Ocean. I live just outside of Toronto Canada.
Oh how exciting to learn about sharks and the ocean when you're landlocked and the ocean is a far distance away. So tell us Ella being so young how did you find your passion for the sharks and can you remember that day or situation that brought it to the surface?
Even though I am young, I have always loved sharks. I remember watching videos of whale sharks and people swimming with them, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t so badly want to watch and read and learn more about them. One night my Dad found a video of Ocean Ramsey free diving with Great Whites and we watched it together. I knew what one day I wanted to do that. I was hooked. My parents are strict with me watching TV, but I was always allowed to watch nature shows. My Mom and Dad would let me watch Blue Planet when I was really small and it would calm me down. They said I would be totally mesmerized by the sound of the ocean waves and the images of the animals.
I remember the time when I knew that I wanted to use my voice and do everything I could to help save sharks and the ocean. It was when I saw Rob Stewart's film Sharkwater. I think I was 4. I remember the movie was sad, and I didn’t understand everything in it, but my parents explained that sharks were being killed and wasted for greedy humans. I have watched Sharkwater A LOT of times since then, and I understand it more now. It still makes me really sad, but it also makes me mad, and makes me want to help change how sharks are thought of by people, and to help make people understand how big of a problem shark finning, and consuming shark products is.
Yes Rob Stewart has created some amazing awareness for the good of sharks and how we need to protect them. You are doing exactly what Rob aimed to accomplish and that is create a spark in people to do action for the sharks. Now we know you're passionate about the sharks, so please tell us what actions have you done or do to give back or help the sharks?
I enjoy helping the planet and especially trying to help save sharks. This coming April will be the 2nd year I do the CN Tower Climb to raise money for the World Wildlife Federation. Last year was my first time, and I raised over $500 by myself. My mom and I did the climb together, and this year I have some friends and other family who are going to do the climb and help raise money too. My family and I spend a lot of time by the Ocean in Florida. In the spring we go to a beautiful place called Hutchinson Island for 6 weeks. Every morning we get up and walk the beach and clean up trash. It is crazy what we find on the beach. We have picked up more plastic straws than I can count, plastic bottle caps, empty water bottles, balloons with long pieces of ribbon tied to them, plastic toothbrushes and even larger things like empty washed up laundry soap bottles. When we are back home in Canada, I also spend time going into schools and speaking to other kids about sharks and why they are so important for our oceans. Most kids think that sharks are cool, and some think they are scary, but after we talk about them and how important they are, they all want to help save them.
I recently was asked to speak at a fundraising event for Sea Shepherd Toronto. I was really excited about this, because Paul Watson, who is the founder of Sea Shepherd is one of my heroes. I spoke about why we need to care about the ocean, and how the things we do, like our wasteful use of plastic is killing the ocean, and eventually will kill us too. I talked about my greatest hero Rob Stewart, who died earlier this year when he was filming Sharkwater Extinction. I talked about how we need to keep doing the work he started. Rob was amazing and I wish I could have met him. I got to meet Rob’s family at the Pangeaseed mural unveiling in Toronto recently. The mural was made to help people remember Rob. It is so beautiful. Seeing his family and how sad they are made me want to try even harder to help carry on his work.
At the Sea Shepherd fundraiser I spoke at, I was given a little table at the event. My parents and I recently started a not for profit company called Evolocean. We are going to be selling reusable and environmentally aware products to replace single use plastic items. The money we raise will all go back to conservation. Sea Shepherd allowed me to sell some of our stainless steel straw sets and bamboo toothbrushes. I also sold Tshirts with a drawing of a whale shark I did. The money I raised at the event is going to two really important causes. Part of the money is going to help complete Rob Stewart's Sharkwater Extinction, and the other part is going to another one of my heroes, Madison Stewart. Madison is also a shark conservationist, and she does really important work to help save sharks. I think she is really amazing. I am too little to help her do her work yet, so the money we raise is going to help support her work as well.
Wow at age 7 you're already a public speaker! That is one incredible skill to have especially when your speaking for animals that cannot speak to us. You are taking amazing action from beach clean-ups, fundraising, speaking to children at schools, and hitting public events! Great work Ella!! So tell us how has your passion for the sharks changed your thinking and your life even at age 7?
My love for sharks has changed my thinking and life in a lot of ways. Even though I am 7, I try and think about things and how they affect the earth. My Mom and Dad have always loved the planet and Oceans, and I have just always known that not being wasteful is the right thing to do. I remember that when I was really small and brushing my teeth my mom used to say “we turn off the water while we brush our teeth so we don’t hurt the whales in the ocean”. As I have gotten bigger my whole family has changed a lot of things. We have always recycled, but in the last couple years we have tried to stop using plastic at all. We make a game about it. If we want to buy something that comes in plastic we try and find a way to do it without plastic. Recently a store opened near us that has a lot more stuff in glass jars, like ketchup or mustard and things like that. So we will go to there to buy those things instead. We now make our own toothpaste and store it in a glass jar. We buy shampoo bars from Lush and they come in paper bags and metal tins. We use bar soap that is wrapped in paper and not plastic. Just by doing this a lot of plastic trash is avoided just from my house. We shop at local farmers markets in the summer and we always always always bring our stainless steel water bottles and reusable bags and at restaurants
we refuse a plastic straw and bring our own stainless steel ones. Most of the time the server at the restaurant thinks our straws are really cool and they ask where they can get them. A few weeks ago we forgot our reusable bags and my mom was doing a big grocery shop. We still didn’t use plastic bags, after my mom paid we just put the stuff back into the cart and right into our car from the cart. When when we got home we got the bags and put the groceries in them to bring them into the house. It was more work, and the lady at the store thought my mom was silly, but she just told them that she would rather do this than use a plastic bag. Those sorts of things happen a lot. They are little things, but if everyone did them, they would become big changes.
I do a lot of trash clean ups. I live very close to Lake Ontario, so we do lots of shoreline clean ups. We also live near a lot of forests, so we walk the trails and clean up there too. A few weeks ago we did a clean up in the forest along a trail that has a stream running through it. We cleaned up 8 bags of garbage. We sorted it and recycled everything we could. It made me really mad though because that trash thrown in the stream would eventually make its way to the lake, and then eventually out the St. Lawrence and into the Ocean. I recently heard someone say “there is no away” about throwing trash away. I think I am going to add that into my presentations for kids. When we throw something out we just think that we did our job and it is gone and not our responsibility anymore. That isn’t true. Wherever you throw it away, it still has to go somewhere on our planet, and a lot of times that somewhere is the ocean. So many animals are choking on plastic, or getting caught in our trash. It’s true, there is no away.
"My mom told me she read that selfies kill more people than sharks do every year."
Another really important thing my family does is that we eat Vegan. It isn’t as hard as people think it is. The food we eat is really good. You might not think that eating vegan is about saving sharks, but it actually is. Did you know that a lot of sharks are killed as by catch in fishing, and the fish that are being caught are being used to feed cows and chickens and pigs for people to eat? If people stopped eating animals, the demand for fish to feed those animals they are eating would go down, and then not as many sharks would be killed. It’s not just about the sharks that we eat vegan, but to me that is the most important reason.
I have also voiced my opinion about shark kill tournaments. I think just pointing out the people and organizations that do support things like this can maybe make people stop buying their stuff, so then the companies won’t sponsor the tournaments anymore because they are losing money because of their bad choice in sponsoring.
You have made some amazing points here Ella! That our choices make differences in the world whether they are good choices or bad choices. Choosing to repack your cart and then deal with the bagging at home is an important choice you have shared showing your convictions to be the change you want to see in the world. You mentioned your diet has changed and the impacts it will have not only on your health but the health of the planet's intricate ecosystems. So many great actions you have taken from changing your choices to create change. Thank you for that Ella!
Many people fear sharks so tell us why don't they scare you and how important are they to the ocean?
Lots of people are scared of sharks. I think movies and TV are a big reason for this. Any time I see sharks in a show that isn’t a nature show, they are shown to be really mean and aggressive. Like they just want to eat people. This isn’t true though. I’m not afraid of sharks because I think they are incredible and beautiful. I think they are just misunderstood. My friend Jim Abernethy dives with sharks all the time, and he films how beautiful and shy they are. He shows people what sharks are really like. He has a shark friend that is named Emma. She is a Tiger Shark. She has been visiting with Jim for a lot of years. Every time she sees him she swims right up to him, and she looks for affection from him.
My friend Madison Stewart swims with sharks all the time too and shows that they aren’t man eaters. Ocean Ramsey has a company called One Ocean Diving, she takes people out every single day to swim with sharks. She teaches them that they are just misunderstood and on her dives you get to learn about what sharks are really like, and then get in the water with them. All these people show what sharks are really like. That isn’t what TV and movies show you. They want you to think that as soon as a shark sees a human in the water that it swims right towards the human and eats them. It is just isn’t a truthful view of sharks. I do think that sharks need to be respected, they are still a wild animal, but I don’t think they need to be feared. My mom told me she read that selfies kill more people than sharks do every year. I think if people are smart and respectful that we can be in the ocean with not a lot to fear from sharks. Sylvia Earle said that she is more afraid of getting into the ocean and not seeing sharks. I think more people need to think that way.
Sharks are really important to our ocean. I think a lot of people don’t realize that if sharks die , then we as humans die too. They help keep our coral reefs healthy, and that is really important because the oceans actually provide a lot of the oxygen we need to breathe. Sharks keep the balance of the ocean in check. They are the top predator. If they are gone, then everything else below them is out of balance and the ocean ecosystem won’t survive. That is a scary thought. It is like a whole puzzle. All the pieces are connected and rely on each other.
"Everything I understand is that it is almost too late. I think kids my age are the last chance. If we don’t do something then sharks will be gone." ~Ella Grace
Ella you are a knowledgeable young lady. Our team here are in awe of what you know about our beautiful sharks at such a young age. You are so correct about how important sharks are to our ocean and ultimately our world we live in. With the sharks keeping the balance of the ocean it allows us to ultimately keep the second breath we take which the ocean provides. Many people think that trees are the only source for our oxygen which sadly are being torn down and sometimes burned around the world. However the ocean gives us probably more of the oxygen we breath and you're right we need to respect the sharks more so we can protect the very element we need to survive - oxygen. So tell us what ocean organization is your favorite and why?
I have so many ocean organizations that I love and think are important.
If I have to pick one though, I think it is Sea Shepherd. I love Paul Watson. He is really brave and tough and he doesn’t care if people like him or not. I got to hear him speak and he is really funny. He said that people call him a pirate, but he doesn’t mind, because pirates get things done! He is a good pirate, and one day I want to volunteer on one of his ships. I asked if I could do it, but they said I have to be 18. So I have a while to wait.
We support Sea Shepherd, and ask other people to as well. For Christmas my parents make a donation to Sea Shepherd for my brother and sister and Me. It’s really important. Even if it is a small amount, it helps them buy important supplies so they can keep saving the oceans.
Sea Shepherd is doing a wonderful job for our ocean! Until you're 18 I am sure you will create an incredible wave of action and awareness. That is 11 years you will be speaking, fundraising, cleaning beaches, and just talking about protecting the sharks. In your own words what would you like people to know that was a great lesson you have learned because of your passion for sharks?
A great lesson that I have learned because of my love for sharks is that when you tell people about sharks and the disaster that they face, people do want to help. Most people just honestly don’t know how bad it is for sharks, and how bad it will be for people if we don’t do something to save them. Most people think that someone else will fix the problem. People don’t realize that they have the power to help too. I have learned that people need to understand the problem and fall in love with sharks to want to save them. That’s my mission. Help them to understand and love sharks so they will want to save them too. I really want people to know that if we all speak out about shark finning, and the killing of sharks for meat and vitamins, and wasteful by-catch of sharks , that we can make a change. Everything I understand is that it is almost too late. I think kids my age are the last chance. If we don’t do something then sharks will be gone.
We protect what we love Ella and your mission is with so much truth! Our readers are sure feeling the passion in your voice and actions. When we speak about the atrocities of a species it is not to distance people but to bring them close and build that strength to fight for protection. Sharks are being killed for so many useless human needs from a bowl of soup, cosmetics, dog/cat food, livestock feed, and their cartilage to fight cancer. This is not what sharks are here for and Ella you keep walking this amazing journey for them! With all these beautiful sharks, 510 different species I believe, what is your favorite shark?
What is my favourite shark? That’s an easy question! Whale Sharks!!!!
HAHA! What a great reaction! Ella you have been an intelligent delight to have on our Ocean Passion Series! We want to thank you for the work you are doing and the work you will do in the future! You may not see your impact right now but every choice you make to refrain from plastic bags, cleaning up garbage, speaking to young minds, will all show strength in years to come. We don't feel you are the last chance for sharks however we know the minds you teach will join you and copy you to keep the foundation for shark protection growing. You may only be 7 years old but you are a LEADER for others to take serious when you speak for the sake of your home - the blue planet.
Check back next week on the Ocean Passion Series to find out who our next ocean passionate guest will be and you will never be disappointed! Check out our past guests here >>Ocean Passion Series<<