Madi is an activist and her cause is her life. She is mature beyond her years and yet still a girl in many ways. She can be dead serious or a goofball, ironic and quirky, but always her own person who’s consistently made sacrifices for her beliefs. She’ll dodge bullets before accepting another shot in another shark.
Madi grew up in the ocean along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Sharks are part of her family. Feisty and opinionated, her parents nicknamed her ‘Pip’, since her dad was a ‘Pirate’ and her mother a ‘Hippy’.
Even in her short lifetime, Madi has noticed a decline in shark populations everywhere she dives. She left school at age 14 to start protecting sharks full-time. To her they are not the monster but the king of a healthy sea. In a paradox that is pure Madi, her favourite film is JAWS. She understands too well that the real enemy is fear: if we could understand why we need sharks - and why we need to respect their power as an Apex predator - we might stop killing them by the hundreds of millions every year.
Trying to ‘Shark-Proof’ the ocean for our safety is as misdirected and outdated as Australia’s once-famous Rabbit- Proof Fence. In order to reduce the devastating effects of shark fishing, finning, submerged nets and baited hooks, Madi will create a 4-min video called ‘How Sharks Change Reefs’. Just like the viral video "How Wolves Change Rivers" Madi sets out to show how a healthy ocean starts at the top of its ecosystem.
Madi wants to turn shark fear into shark love so that others, like she, will demand their protection.
Madi enlists passionate fellow underwater filmmaker Joe Romeiro [The Edge]. Together they will create evocative images of healthy reefs and oceans with plenty of sharks - and devastated oceans without sharks. They will risk life, limb, and arrest, and be shocked by what they see.
Madi finds Sydney-based American scientist Dr Elizabeth Madin who has created new technology that demonstrates sharks’ ability to reduce climate change. Now Madi’s message isn’t just for coastal dwellers, it’s for us all. She needs to show what the world looks like with and without sharks if we are to choose which one we want.
A depleted reef is easy to find. Madi and Joe head to Indonesia to film damaged coral, lack of fish life, and the absence of sharks. It’s hard for Madi to witness, knowing that shark fishing is still a livelihood here and that catch rates are steadily declining. The good news for Madi is they can also find a vibrant reef not too far away. It’s a perfectly functioning paradise in a “no-fishing” zone, and it’s full of colour, life — and sharks. The science of Apex predators as guardians of their ecosystem is well documented. It’s here that Madi has an epiphany. She commits to helping shark fishermen become shark tour operators instead. Madi is able to show the value of live sharks over dead ones, and live reefs over dead ones. The village evolves a new business model as Madi completes her film.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
The project will have an immense impact on not only a community level but also on a global scale — affecting social, philosophical, economic and environmental change. Every year we kill 100,000,000 sharks. Sharks are key to a healthy ocean.
Our film reveals new science that links sharks to climate change so any philanthropic foundation that cares for the ocean, the planet, climate change, our future or the future of ocean predators will feel compelled to act.On a community level - by offering a tourism based alternative to shark fishing — with a prototype program, first, in Indonesia -- we could start with measurable change for an entire community. This alternative source of income would give them a future of making money from a non-finite resource. We would bring more money into their community, protect their ecosystem and food source, and give them a safer, sustainable and more profitable occupation, therefore changing their life and the lives of future generations.
On an international level, not only would the documentary serve as a repeatable example of how live sharks can better support a community than dead ones that are fished to depletion; it would also expand awareness of how sharks are treated and feared around the globe. With engrossing, personal, educational storytelling, we can change people’s perceptions of sharks and in turn help stop the destruction of their species. This protects the sea from the imbalance we will face if we lose this vital Apex predator. What’s more, through understanding and respecting them we hope to reduce shark attacks.
This project has immense longevity, the film itself just acting as a showcase for the larger aim, a global change in the way that sharks are treated and viewed. By bringing a consultant on board, the Australian sustainable shark tourism specialist, Judi Lowe, Madi will be supported and will learn how to build the shark fishing town in Indonesia. After this Madi and Judi will move on to their second target, a town in Colombia, then they will move on to the next town identified as needing help.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
The main outcome that we are hoping to achieve is a global shift in mentality of people towards these apex predators through entertaining, multi-platform, Millenial-targeted, must-see education.
Presently as a society we choose to ‘protect' humans from sharks through attacking and killing them. In showing the value of sharks to marine ecosystems and how these beneficial ecosystems can be created, and help communities we would hopefully encourage people to protect sharks. This would inspire people to put pressure on governments and their shark-related policies, for example the policy that is currently under review in Australia, to lift the protection of Great Whites.
The measurement of the impact of this film is when people both locally and globally are aware of how destructive shark nets and other shark culling measures are, so push to make changes around the way the governments go about “shark–proofing” our oceans. As with Blackfish, we aim to inform and educate viewers and pave the way for legislative and philosophical change. Another measurement is through the increase of shark eco tourism, as shown with Madi’s existing mission that offer an alternative, long term sustainable income to economically vulnerable communities.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
We have many different outreach strategies that we are looking to implement throughout the course of the project. Firstly we will be using a traditional education approach where we will make all information available to schools and other educational institutions along with education packs. This will be partnered with Madi coming to speak at Universities, schools and museums, including working closely with the Australian Museum and a long-running shark exhibition they are planning for 2Q 2018. We will also work closely with the Australian Surf Life Saving clubs to develop ways in which they can educate the community on shark awareness and how to deal with sharks if you see them in the water, similar to the education all children receive about dealing with rips.
Madi will travel to specific areas around Australia, and the world, to educate communities on the benefits of moving their focus to eco tourism and showing them how this can be implemented. Then, if accepted, she and Judi will help them build a place that is shark friendly and financially benefited by eco-tourism. Another strategy to be implemented is involving existing community organisations to help protect sharks. This will be done through local information nights speaking about how the locals can actively change policies on a local level, thus beneficially impacting their lives and careers. Teenagers will help spread the word, and educate through the Australian non-profit, Kids Giving Back. Their focus will be educating young people through the social channels that they are familiar with, using as one of the educational tools the 4 minute video that Madi has created ‘How Sharks Change Reefs’. Just like the viral video "How Wolves Change Rivers" in her video Madi sets out to show how a healthy ocean starts at the top of its ecosystem.