Goliath Grouper Advocate Shana Phelan Named November Sea Hero

Yr Dive Licensed: 1992

Age When Licensed: 16

Dive Certification Stage: PADI IDC Workers Teacher

Phrases To Stay By: “The aim of life is to not be completely happy. It’s to be helpful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some distinction that you’ve lived and lived nicely.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

In March 2022, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fee (FWC) dominated to raise a 32-year moratorium on the goliath grouper fishery in Florida, a lot to the frustration of divers and conservationists who’ve advocated tirelessly to safeguard the safety of those beloved and susceptible animals.

Shana Phelan, a dive store proprietor and a number one voice within the grassroots effort to maintain the fishery closed, has spent the previous 10 years attending fee conferences, gathering public feedback and serving to to show that goliath grouper are price extra alive than lifeless.

Though the fishery is about to reopen in 2023, Phelan’s efforts have persuaded the FWC to enact exceptions for aggregation websites, and he or she’s able to proceed her quest to additional shield South Florida’s goliath grouper inhabitants. For her advocacy and relentless spirit, Shana Phelan is our November Sea Hero.

Q: How will the reopening of the goliath grouper fishery have an effect on your work?

A: I first turned concerned with goliath grouper in 2012 as a part of our native diving affiliation. I’ve labored towards conserving them below protected standing whereas concurrently working to raise their standing and significance to the diving neighborhood and our native authorities. I used to be dissatisfied with the choice to open a goliath grouper harvest in spite of everything these years. I had hoped their iconic standing within the diving neighborhood and their excessive financial worth could be sufficient to maintain the species protected in perpetuity. Nonetheless, I used to be happy that the FWC commissioners stored harvesting closed within the counties the place goliaths mixture for spawning: Martin, Palm Seaside, Broward, Miami-Dade and elements of Monroe.

Q: How will you proceed to advocate after the FWC ruling goes into impact?

A: This month, Pura Vida Divers is launching a citizen-science analysis examine to quantify the goliath sightings at our native dive websites all year long. The analysis staff will periodically dive with clients to facilitate training whereas within the discipline. Moreover, we requested the FWC create spatially protected areas (SPAs) at among the native aggregation websites to ban any fishing exercise throughout aggregation season. The grouper are exhibiting indicators of fishing trauma (eye barotrauma, damaged jaws, entanglement in heavy fishing gear, and many others.) from catch-and-release actions. Hopefully, implementing SPAs will additional shield the spawning inhabitants from catch-and-release fishing.

Q: Is there nonetheless hope for Florida’s present and future goliath grouper?

A: Will probably be tough to totally shield the inhabitants now that the moratorium has been lifted. Our diving neighborhood sees fewer goliaths every year throughout aggregation time. With habitat loss and fishing stress, it’s an uphill battle. We’ll preserve pushing for defense the place we will, and we’ll do our half to assist within the analysis wanted to gas future coverage and fishery choices.

Q: What has prompted the noticeable inhabitants decline lately in Palm Seaside County? How will the brand new laws have an effect on the present inhabitants?

A: Populations in any respect aggregation websites in Palm Seaside County are diminishing, which is extraordinarily alarming. Sadly, there’s not been a sound inventory evaluation for comparability over time. I’m hopeful the SPAs will forestall fishing accidents to the older fish, however the open harvest of the juvenile inhabitants within the majority of Florida waters may very well be problematic for future recruitment.

Q: As co-owner of Pura Vida Divers, what are you doing to encourage clients who dive with you to develop into greater than vacationers?

A: Our firm and tradition are deeply rooted in our private core beliefs and values to offer again greater than we take, to be downside solvers, and to advocate for continued stewardship of the pure world. Yearly, we conduct offshore reef cleanups from boats and at Blue Heron Bridge. We host month-to-month occasions designed to teach our neighborhood on conservation initiatives and analysis alternatives to allow them to develop into knowledgeable, concerned and invested. We run eco-snorkel camps to teach our youth on water conservation and the marine setting, and we fundraise and donate to numerous organizations together with Reef Environmental Schooling Basis, PADI AWARE, Ocean Conservancy, and Seaside Bucket Basis. We additionally coordinate PADI AWARE programs round seasonal wildlife and accomplice with different like-minded organizations to enhance the planet and our ocean methods.

Q: What are the best challenges in marine conservation at present?

A: Over the previous few generations, people have disconnected from their pure world. Advances in healthcare, know-how, trade and innovation, whereas extremely necessary, come at a value. We’ve misplaced what I name our pure identification, how we perceive and work together with our pure world. Making an attempt to teach communities on pure methods, how our actions have an effect on these methods, and what position we play in all of it, is a problem, however one I’m devoted to. Science is steadily misunderstood and consistently questioned. Science solely gives solutions to how our pure world features. We nonetheless must take that data and determine what’s necessary to us and the way it will get translated into actionable coverage. Having avenues to attach and interact scientists, policymakers and most people in a significant approach is extra necessary than ever.

Q: You had been additionally instrumental in conserving the famend Blue Heron Bridge dive website open and protected against aquarium collectors again in 2018. What ongoing work is required to uphold the dive website’s preservation?

A: There have been a number of folks instrumental in making that occur, which was fantastic. For now, BHB stays protected against collectors, and I don’t count on that to vary sooner or later. Blue Heron Bridge wants considerate and accountable divers appearing nearly as good stewards whereas on the dive website. To assist with this, I co-developed a PADI Blue Heron Bridge Distinctive Specialty course provided at Pura Vida Divers to encourage divers to raised shield and benefit from the website. Pura Vida Divers acts because the “Undertake A Park” sponsor for Phil Foster Park/BHB and hosts 10 cleanup occasions a 12 months. Some are shore-based and a few are Dive In opposition to Particles reef cleanups. We report all cleanup knowledge to the Ocean Conservancy, which for over 35 years has collected marine particles knowledge and labored for trash-free seas. In the course of the current cleanup in September, we collected over 130 kilos of trash from the BHB shoreline!

Q: What’s been your most satisfying second?

A: That’s powerful. Most likely watching my daughter develop into the human she’s turning into. In her 13 years, she’s already turning into an advocate in her personal proper. She’s began an endangered species pencil drawing “marketing campaign,” and he or she plans to show it right into a enterprise the place the proceeds profit endangered species nonprofits or organizations that she thinks are making a distinction in combating species loss. I’m regularly blown away by her creativity and character. And I really like being within the water along with her. We began her snorkeling at age 4, and now she’s an Superior Open Water diver. We [cage] dived with nice whites in Guadalupe when she was 9, snorkeled with whale sharks in Mexico at age 10, and dived in Bonaire final 12 months. Plus we snorkel with Manatees in Florida each winter, and revel in our offshore reefs and BHB right here in Palm Seaside after we can. Unbelievably blessed to have her as a dive buddy!

Q: Who’re your “sea heroes”?

A: I’ve so many! Dr. Sylvia Earle was my authentic Sea Hero and one of many most important causes I wished to develop into a marine biologist. She was the keynote speaker for my grasp’s diploma commencement ceremony, and after I met her in particular person I used to be utterly starstruck and will barely get two phrases out—each of that are uncommon for me! My native pal Michael Patrick O’Neill, who does a lot to teach hundreds of college youngsters on marine conservation every year. My pal Becky Kagan Schott, who explores and pictures probably the most wonderful underwater environments and is an inspiration for all of us feminine divers to push ourselves to do extra. Dr. Christina Zenato for her love of diving, her shark advocacy and her lovely soul. Ned and Anna Deloach, my fellow “fish nerd” pals, who achieve this a lot for analysis and training and are among the finest folks you can ever hope to spend time with. And doubtless most significantly, my area people of enterprise colleagues and divers, a lot of whom are scientists, advocates, photographers, and conservationists doing what they’ll daily to make a distinction. I’m regularly amazed at the entire work collectively being accomplished.

Q: Is there something we didn’t ask that you prefer to readers to know? Inform us what’s necessary to you!

A: My director of selling (and pal) Melissa tells me I’m a horrible self-promoter, and he or she’s proper. I’m normally a “behind the scenes” particular person, working exhausting on neighborhood initiatives to profit the native diving neighborhood or the setting indirectly. So right here are some things:

  • I started conservation work with endangered sea turtles again within the early 2000s. I co-authored a Marine Turtle Trauma Response Area Information for WIDECAST, which was meant to be a primary response information for the better Caribbean area when coping with injured sea turtles with restricted assets. To my information, it’s nonetheless in use at present.
  • I’ve been a dive consultant on the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) staff since 2012 and now function the vice chair representing the Scuba Diving Stakeholder group. SEFCRI is a neighborhood motion technique that brings collectively nongovernmental organizations and governmental businesses in an effort to strategize and implement precedence actions wanted to cut back threats to the coral reef communities of Southeast Florida. Mainly, an excellent Initiative bringing all types of stakeholders collectively to work on South Florida Coral Reef points and instrumental within the formation of the Kristin Jacobs Coral Reef ECA.
  • I signify the diving neighborhood on the Save Our Inlet Coalition, a nonprofit group shaped initially in opposition to a big Inlet Enlargement mission. The City of Palm Seaside, the Palm Seaside Civic Affiliation, and plenty of enterprise leaders and neighborhood members make up this coalition.
  • I function the administrator for the Palm Seaside County Diving Affiliation, which to my information, is among the final Diving Associations in existence. I facilitate month-to-month conferences, coordinate our annual fundraiser, work as a neighborhood liaison with our native authorities and tourism businesses, and customarily attempt to preserve the membership knowledgeable on native subjects affecting our trade.
  • I served because the Diving Consultant on Palm Seaside Counties Synthetic Reef and Environmental Enhancement Committee for a number of years, which was a neighborhood stakeholder committee discussing synthetic reef initiatives and initiatives with our native authorities.
  • I used to be awarded the Marine Conservationist of the Yr by the Florida Wildlife Federation this previous June. This was largely for my position within the goliath grouper concern and my efforts to get different stakeholders and environmental teams, foundations, and many others., concerned within the safety of goliath grouper.
  • And eventually, I used to be appointed this 12 months to the Tree Board of the City of Lake Park (my neighborhood). As a board member, we work with the city to review, develop and counsel our neighborhood growth division on tree points in addition to enhancing and rising the tree cover in our city. We’re at present engaged on updating the record of authorized plantings to encourage natives and Florida authorized planting, and to eradicate invasive plant species in our city.

Every Sea Hero featured in Scuba Diving receives a Seiko SRPD43 watch valued at $525. For our December concern, judges choose a Sea Hero of the Yr, who receives a $5,000 money award from Seiko to additional their work. Nominate a sea hero at scubadiving.com/seaheroes.

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