An Interview with WiseOceans… Ben Harris from The Other Panama
This week we chat to Ben out in Panama. Here Ben shares with us his experience and why he loves the job he dies and the way it does make a difference. He also gives some great advice including something very close to us here at WiseOceans that you should not consider yourself to be too insignificant to change the world. We can all help so get involved whether its a full time job in marine conservation or a beach clean or making the right choice at the supermarket, it all makes a difference.
Name: Ben Harris
Job Title: Dive Instructor/ Conservationist/ Founder of The Other Panama
Organisation: The Other Panama (TOP)
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
Despite growing up in London I was always fascinated by the sea and overtime I became more aware of how much trouble our oceans were in, I became more and more focused on finding ways in which I could help.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I completed a course on tropical Ecology and Coastal Marine management, and a number of other marine related courses. I also worked my way up the ladder of the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) until I became a Master Scuba Diver Trainer specialising in Conservation Courses on Turtles and Sharks. I also volunteered for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and took part in a number of campaigns around the world protecting and defending marine life. I am now the Director of Sea Shepherd activities in Panama.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I founded my company (The Other Panama) and most of the time lead all the courses and am on hand for all activities. Before doing this I worked in the area above and below the surface for 6 years to become proficient and knowledgeable about the surrounding areas and what they contained and what threats they faced and how we could help.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Being underwater with people and amongst the marine life is where I am happiest. Seeing people truly appreciate nature and learning how fragile it all is and inspiring people to want to help protect it is very rewarding.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
All the time I feel I am making a difference with my job. Whether it is simply picking up a piece of plastic on the beach, that if left could harm marine life, or teaching locals and tourists alike about the amazing creatures they see around them and what makes each one so unique and precious in the ecosystem and why we must look after them.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
That you should not consider yourself to be too insignificant to change the world. We all inhabit our own worlds and if we all focus on changing our world we can the change the whole world. Many people see things around them, or on the internet and think someone should do something about that. The defining moment comes when you realise you are that someone who can help.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Computer skill were not something I paid a lot of attention to at school and these days I find myself on computers all the time, whether making posters and awareness pieces or writing budget proposals for future campaigns or simply making inventories with Excel. This was a steep learning curve for me but something I am now fairly proficient at.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Get involved anyway you can. Wherever you are you can be sure there is a group that is doing something to help and would welcome your support and help, if not why not start one? It doesn’t matter how active you can be, every little helps. Even if you take a trip to the beach every few months and give it clean. Marine conservation can also start in the kitchen and supermarket with what you choose to buy or eat. Think about its source, think about its impact.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
That is one of the hardest questions I ever get asked……and I get asked it a lot.
I love hanging out with Turtles as I love their relaxed attitude and tenacity and the fact you find them just bobbing out there in the middle of the ocean, happy as can be, hundreds of miles from land.
Sharks though, sharks are my real love. I have always been fascinated by sharks of all kinds, although for me the bigger the better. I love their sleekness, their ability to show up for a second smile at you and disappear in a flash. I love their power and dominance in the ocean and nothing makes me sadder then the thought that we may lose them from the oceans forever if we don’t act now to save them.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
I have made more then 5,000 dives around the world and I have been very spoilt in what I have been fortunate to see. So picking one moment is near impossible, as their have been many moments that have been unforgettable for different reasons. Diving with thousands of silky sharks in the middle of the ocean, having walls of Hammerheads swim over my head, being visited by a great white when I was not in a cage or simply snorkelling with a mother and baby humpback whale.
Every moment I spend in the ocean strengthens my resolve to fight to save the oceans and educate and inspire anyone I can to join me.
Thanks Ben, with over 5,000 dives and probably more hours submerges than you can count, you’ve seen some incredible things which unsurprisingly drives you to continue working in marine conservation and spreading awareness with others.
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