Divers Adrian Phillips, left, of Nassau and Andre Musgrove, Freeport, work with research scientists from Beneath the Waves, the non-profit that earned its stripes as a Bahamian NGO after more than a decade of shark and marine species exploration and documentation that has led to better understanding of the fragile marine environment and the role of sharks within it.
Beneath the Waves Earns Bahamian NGO Status, Praised for Research Leading to Shark Protection, Involving Students
A US-based non-profit whose decade-long research helped lead to The Bahamas becoming and remaining a shark sanctuary earned admiration and congratulations from deep sea divers this week on the organization’s latest achievement – its status as a Bahamian NGO (non-government organization).
Praise for Beneath the Waves came from divers Adrian Phillips and Jaran Rolle. Both men have worked with the scientists in research expeditions and filming for Discovery’s Shark Week.
For Phillips, growing up appreciating the marine environment was a natural. He’s the son of Eleanor Phillips, regional director of The Nature Conservancy and a lifelong environmental protection advocate. But it wasn’t until he started working with Beneath the Waves, he said, that he truly began to understand the science that goes into what instinct tells you is the right thing to do.
“They (Beneath the Waves) do good work protecting the environment and showing how the sharks help the overall marine environment,” said Phillips, 25, who traded college text books for a life doing what he loves, being on the water as a freelance fishing and diving guide. “Everything they do is scientifically based. They use the scientific method. I don’t think anyone else is doing it the way they do and the way they are stepping up will help our country out.”
Jaran Rolle agrees. The 37-year-old father of two from Exuma, looks at the work of Beneath the Waves from a different perspective, but with the same admiration.
“I learned a lot since I started working with them,” said Rolle, a boat captain with Sandals since 2012 who runs a boat for Beneath the Waves when they are in Exuma. “I learned how important it is to protect the sharks, how important blue carbon is to the climate.”
What impresses Rolle the most, though, is the group’s involvement with young Bahamians.
“I like the way they are getting kids involved and letting them understand how important the shark is to the ocean,” says the father of a 12-year-old, 8-year old and another due next month. “Most of my childhood years, I would go fishing with a lot of local guys, always liked the water, like boating, liked the ocean but I never really knew that much about it and about sharks till I started working with these guys.”
In July, Beneath the Waves will offer students a second chance to experience shark science first hand. In April, students from LN Coakley boarded the R/V Tigress becoming citizen scientists for a day. This summer, Beneath the Waves also plans to host a free kids’ camp with marine-based activities for any primary aged students on Saturday, July 23.
“We’re really excited about that,” explained David Harris, project manager at Beneath the Waves. “We wanted to do it last year but COVID prevented it and we think our plans for this year are even bigger and better.” Participation will be on a first sign up, first attend basis when registration opens. About 60 students are expected to participate.
For Beneath the Waves CEO and lead scientist Dr. Austin Gallagher, who has published more than 100-peer reviewed papers and was named Scuba Diving Magazine’s Sea Hero for his work with sharks in The Bahamas, Bahamian status means something the others did not mention.
“This opens the door for greater opportunities for Bahamians,” said Dr. Gallagher, who helped draft the country’s shark sanctuary status policy. “Now we can have a more extensive presence, engage more Bahamians in research and work more closely with schools and hopefully with the University. This is a win-win for all, especially the young people of The Bahamas. The more we can do to protect the marine environment, the better their futures will be.”