Monday, May 28, 2012

Lucky Girl

I am a lucky girl.

I get to share sharks with people from all over the world and all walks of life. Watching each person evolve from “ Eeeek I am swimming with sharks,” to “Wow, I am swimming with sharks, “ is an amazing rush. It usually only takes a few minutes of watching these incredible animals move through the water to create that evolution.

Sharks get a bad rap and people come into the situation with a lot of preconceived notions. Sharks will NOT attack just because you are menstruating, have a cut or are peeing in the water. In fact the only real attractant that we are going to introduce is some bait.

We all love our monsters and I suppose it is easy to get carried away thinking about a man-eating shark, massive anaconda or giant alligator that has somehow escaped from the movie set and it surely going to find you.

Even if people are nervous or scared, I love that they want so badly to see these animals up close and have their own experience. It is never easy to face our fears, but when we conquer them it is such a rush. I love when people respond with, “ why haven’t I done this before,” or “ when can I do this again.” Fear becomes excitement and excitement creates a connection to the animals. Now we have empathy and a new shark advocate is born. No, you do not have to run out and start protesting or be an expert; all you need to do is care about these animals and explain to friends and family why they are pretty damn awesome!

I always make reference to the fact that everyone has a voice and that it is quite simple to just speak up. Go home after your shark encounter and tell your friends and family, especially those that think you are out of your mind for even considering a swim with these monsters, and rave about the experience. Explain the beauty of a shark moving through the water. Yes, I said beauty. Talk about their eyes, their color, and their smile! Revel in the fact that you had a moment with one of Mother’s Natures most amazing creations.

I love every second that I can spend with sharks, but the rush of seeing someone fall in love with sharks for the first time might even rival that. I am responsible for creating that moment, the realization and that rush. I am not a shark expert, but I am a shark super fan and I am doing my best to create a small army of other shark fans around the world.

I am a lucky girl.

Thanks to Laura, Eric & Antoine for becoming the latest group of shark fans!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sharky Island Girl Yummies: Part 1

Living on a small island with limited access to supplies can be challenging. If the weather is bad the boat cannot bring things across and fresh produce only arrives once a week. We eat mostly vegan or vegetarian, which can be even more of a challenge. I have a lot of fun coming up with yummy meals and wanted to share a few of my recipes. I have borrowed a few ideas and changed them, but most of the recipes are right out of this Shark girl’s imagination.
Bon Appetite!

Black Bean & Split Pea Veggie Burgers with Guacamole:

Being back on the island our grocery options are limited and a bit pricey. I wanted to make a batch of veggie burgers, but could not find any lentils and chickpeas were pretty expensive. I grabbed a can of black beans and a bag of split peas to see what I could do. The split peas look like lentils, so I figured why not.

What You Need:

1 Can Black Beans ( 12oz)
1 Bag of Split peas ( 12oz)
1 large onion
1.5 C bread crumbs
1 egg
2 cloves garlic
Seasoning (I used garlic salt)
Salt & Pepper
1 large avocado (Florida) or 2 small Haas avocados
Juice from half a lime
1 TB Garlic salt
Cayenne pepper or hot sauce ( optional)

To Make Burgers:

Soak the split peas over night or heat on low for 40 minutes with enough water to cover the peas. Cook until soft.
Preheat the oven to 375 F
Rinse black beans and sauté with garlic, onion and seasoning
Add in split peas and mix. Combine with breadcrumbs and egg. Mix. Add more crumbs if too moist
Place mixture in fridge to cool
Mold mixture into patties
Dry fry for 1-2 minutes on each side
Back for 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the burger
Makes 8 burgers

To Make Guacamole:

Remove avocado flesh from skin and place in bowl
Mash with fork or blend in food processor
Add lime juice and garlic salt and mix

Top burgers with guacamole and enjoy! For a real treat serve on a slice of toasted Bimini bread!!

Healthy No Bake Cookies

No bake because I had no baking soda or baking powder, so I had to improvise.
The recipe called for cocoa powder, but didn’t have that either. These were a gamble, but they are super yummy!

3 c quick oats
¼ chocolate protein powder
½ peanut butter
½ cup soy milk ( I also use almond milk)
1 large ripe banana
¼ c light brown sugar

Mash the banana. In a small pan heat the peanut butter and soy milk into boiling. Turn off and mix thoroughly. Add protein powder, sugar and banana. Mix. Trasnfer to a bowl and add in the oats. Mix until all oats are coated in the peanut butter mixture. Scoop onto a plate in whatever size cookie you want. Put in refrigerator for 20 minutes, if you can wait that long.

Coconut Cream Pie with Lime Banana Glaze

Adapted from my lovely yogi friend Brittany’s recipe.
This pie is a labor of love, but definitely a nice treat.


I used corn flakes, but I am going to try ginger snaps
2 cups corn flakes
1 large ripe banana
1 tbsp agave nectar
Smash cornflakes or cookies in a bag or in food processor. Mash the banana. Mix banana, crumbs and agave together until it forms a doughy mass. Press mass into bottom of cake pan. You can leave as is (raw) or bake until golden brown ( 350 F for 15 mins )

Flesh from 3 medium coconuts (I had a nice husband to shuck them for me)
½ cup coconut water
½ cup almond milk (can use soy)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp agave nectar

Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until you get a thick cream. Should be like yogurt in consistency. Spread across crust and put in freezer.


Juice from 1 large lime or 1.5 smaller limes
1-1.5 Ripe bananas
1 tbsp agave
Mix all in blender or food processor. Pour onto top of coconut mix. Place in freezer for 2 hours to set. After set it can be refrigerated. Enjoy a healthy and decadent treat!

Vegan Island Ceviche

1 large white onion
1 large tomato
1 large green pepper
2 TBSP garlic salt
1 large lime
Hot sauce

Dice onion, tomato and pepper into small pieces and mix in bow. Add juice of one lime. Add garlic salt and hot sauce to taste. Mix and serve.

Vegan Apple Crumble

1 C oats
1 large apple
1 large ripe banana
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 TBSP Agave nectar

2 TBSP cinnamon

Combine ingredients and spread on baking dish. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Kalik Braised Cabbage with Black Bean Salsa:

¼ of a green cabbage
1 can black beans
½ large onion
1 large tomato
2 stalks celery
2 TBSP diced garlic
1TBSP Cumin
Salt to taste
¼ C Kalik ( local Bahamian Beer)
Hot Sauce ( optional)

Slice cabbage and place in large fry pan. Add beer and steam on high until cabbage is tender. Dash with salt or garlic salt.
Rinse black beans thoroughly. Chop onion and celery into small pieces. Add a dash of beer to the pan and sauté garlic and diced onion for 2 minutes. Add celery and black beans. Bring to a boil then simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer for 2 more minutes. Add more beer or water if needed. Add cumin, salt and hot sauce. Mix.
Put cabbage in bowl and top with salsa.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I " SAW" a Fish

Duncan and I decided to make use of the glorious day and head to the lab to film baby nurse sharks. When we arrived at the lab there was frenzy of people and excited shouting. Before I could really process what was happening, we were in a skiff and zipping out the channel. We stopped the boat and looked at each other, not exactly sure where we were headed. A quick radio to the other boats and we were underway again. The reason for this frantic departure was that the Sharklab had caught and tagged a 4.1 m small tooth sawfish. This animal is endangered an extremely rare to see. In his 2.5 years at the lab, Duncan never saw one. We were like kids on Christmas morning as we raced across the flats.

When were filming at the Blue Hole in Long Island in 2010 a freediver spotted a sawfish in the Blue Hole. We arrived just after the encounter happened and immediately put our snorkel gear on. We spent a while in the hole hoping to get a glimpse, but were resigned to looking at pictures. It was really exciting and a little creepy for the diver, doing a breath hold with his eyes closes on the line, who first spotted the creature from the Blue Hole. I reported the time, location, and depth and sent a picture to the appropriate parties. Excited to contribute valuable data, but jealous of those had seen the elusive animal.

Some of the lab crew had spotted her while fishing for other sharks. Grant and Steve assisted in getting a tail rope on her so that she could be brought to the side of the bought and worked up. She was carefully measured, as working with the saw can be dangerous. These animals are incredibly strong and have a very sharp business end. DNA and blood samples were taken and she was tagged with an acoustic transmitter that can be actively tracked.

Sharklab Assistant Manager Lindsay Biermann holding the saw fish next to the boat.

We found the flotilla of boats and added our trusty steed. We had not planned on being in the water, so did not have our mask or fins. This meant grabbing random fins and gear in an attempt to piece together a suitable kit for filming the awaiting critter. Duncan managed to score a proper pair of freediving fins, where I was left with a set of “my first fins,” that proved to be as effective as bedroom slippers on my feet. I slipped into the water and followed the line that was connected to the sawfish.

She appeared in the distance and I gasped and giggled in my snorkel. She was massive. In my head I knew that 4.1 meter was big, but it seems as though a sawfish carries itself with a larger than life presence. Maybe it is the massive serrated “saw” at the front. She was lying on the bottom, but keeping a watchful eye on the action. She got agitated and stirred up a massive cloud of dust. Filming was tricky because you do not want to stress the animal. I floated there in complete awe of this prehistoric looking creature just a few feet away. I equate this experience to seeing a giant panda in the wild, although I prefer my encounters in the water.

Sawfish are a type of ray that inhabits coastal waters. Very little is known about these animals and they are listed as critically endangered on the ICUN Red List. Trophy fishermen have valued their saw and for hundreds of years these animals have been targeted. They have also suffered because of coastal habitat loss. This is seen even in Bimini where a major resort has filled in a large section of mangrove. The Sharklab team was able to track her for 8.5 hours. They lost her in the middle of the night in shallow water that the boats could not get through. They are still actively searching for her in hopes of being able to put a satellite tag on her. This would provide invaluable information about this animal.

Seeing an animal like this sends a flow of energy and excitement through everyone involved. It is moments like these that remind us why we all fight so hard to help the oceans. I want my children to see a sawfish, not just tell the story about an animal that once lived around Bimini.