The organiser of the UK’s biggest beach clean in Shoreham has come face to face with a great white shark on a conservation mission in Majorca.
Georgina Stevens, who wrote her series of educational children’s books Be The Change in Shoreham, was trawling the Mediterranean Sea with Spanish charity Alnitak when the giant fish emerged.
“A change in fishing policy in the area means this is a safer place for sharks now,” she said.
“It’s a sign that the ecosystem here is becoming stronger.”
The group also saw grey whales, sperm whales, blue fin tuna and dolphins, she said.
While the first sighting of the iconic predator in the Balearic Islands for more than 40 years is certainly exciting, it further highlights the importance of Georgina’s trip.
She lived in Shoreham for eight months from last year, helping to raise awareness around human impact on the coastline.
As a sustainability consultant, Georgina was working with Alnitak to monitor marine pollution and health in the area. Continuing her work from the Shoreham beach clean in March, she was particularly interested in the impact of plastics on marine ecosystems.
“We went out far enough that we couldn’t see the land and there was never a point where we could not see plastic,” she said.
“We were in this 100-year-old fishing boat, travelling at about four knots which was slow enough for us to be able to dive in and collect some of the larger pieces.
“We saw so many plastic bottles, so many helium balloons that people had just let go and to sit on top of the water. We need to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics.
“Every single piece of plastic you have used in your lifetime still exists on the planet today.”
Her top tip for cutting down on plastic waste is to swap the recycling and waste bins around in your house.
“If you usually have a big bin for your landfill waste i.e. your rubbish, then turn this into the recycling bin,” she said.
“Then for rubbish, have a small box inside a cupboard under the sink or in a drawer. It will make you think before throwing something away because there is no ‘away’. And it will show you the finite capacity we have on this planet for rubbish.”
In-keeping with the shark theme, Georgina’s first book, Finn the Fortunate Tiger Shark and his Fantastic Friends, is about a tiger shark who becomes ill after eating plastic.
Children, she said, are key to solving the plastic problem.
“I believe that children are more powerful than we give them credit for,” she said.
“They are not told they can change things but they can. I don’t think people realise how powerful they are.
“When we act as a group, we force big companies to react – look at Pret a Manger now offering reusable bottles. When groups of people come together we can create change.”
Georgina organised the 650-strong Shoreham beach clean and credits the Shoreham Swimmers group with giving her the confidence to get in the sea.
She said that while she was a little nervous to take the plunge in Shoreham initially, the Shoreham Swimmers’ commitment to entering the water in all weathers gave her a boost.
Three months later and she was taking a dip in the sea after a great white shark and she is now on the look out for a house in Shoreham.
See more about Georgina’s series of children’s books, all proceeds from which go to charity, at www.bethechangebooks.org
Find out more about Alnitak at www.alnitak.org