Tell us about yourself, your journey to becoming Shark Girl and how you became so passionate about ocean conservation, particularly protecting sharks
My involvement in conservation and working with sharks is actually an interesting story. When I was young my father used to take me to the Great Barrier Reef to scuba dive every school holidays. There was one reef in particular that I loved and I would see countless reef sharks in the night dive, it got the point where I would play with them, increase my heart rate by breathing heavy in my scuba gear and watch them respond to this by coming closer and sometimes even bumping me. It was when I finally left school to home school and spend more time diving that I returned to this reef, to find the same population of sharks had disappeared. This lead me to discover the presence of legal shark fisheries inside the great barrier reef, and that was the first thing I ever fought against which lead to my first documentary 'shark girl'.
What are two of your most memorable experiences diving/swimming with sharks?
My most memorable come from my childhood on The Great Barrier Reef. I also have some recent encounters I will never forget such as swimming with three great whites, seeing a great hammerhead so large I thought it was a whale and swimming with baby black tip sharks in Tahiti.
There is a stigma around sharks and many believe they will eat you alive if you encounter one. Have you every felt slightly in danger during one of your shark encounters? And what can you tell those who are afraid of them?
I have never been afraid in one of my encounters, I have however gotten out of the water during a few. It's always wise to remember sharks are very dangerous, but what makes them dangerous is a situation. I pick my moments, clean water, eye contact, all these little things make a difference during an encounter. If a shark is in hunting mode, it's wise to respect that. For people who are afraid of them, I'd encourage them to log onto my website and read my surfing guide to sharks which explains a lot about why and how sharks attack people, as soon as you build your knowledge base you know what situations to watch out for.
Tell us about your Non-for profit The Hooper Collective?
The Hooper Collective is really new, I got contacted by a complete stranger in the USA who was like "hey I want to help you make a legitimate organisation for your work" he's now my second in charge and together we set up this amazing little NFP together. It's going to help me fund all the work I've done to help sharks, from mercury testing shark meat to prove it's dangerous to eat, all the way to taking a shark hunters kids diving with sharks. I named it the Hooper collective after Matt Hooper, from the movie JAWS, he was the one character in the film that advocated for the protection of the shark, and I'm hoping to keep his spirit going.
What advice can you give us in continuing to help protect our shark friends and oceans!
The best advice I can give is to get involved and never underestimate your power. When I was little and I started doing this, I did everything to change the minds of governments and leaders, and that didn't work. I realised what I had to do was change the minds of people and have them stand with me, so everything I do is to inspire you, I need your help.
A phrase that is of significance to you
"When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty" an old Australian phrase I adopted to represent my campaign against the legal shark fisheries inside the Great Barrier Reef.