An Interview with WiseOceans…Rose Huizenga from Gili Shark Conservation

This week we chat to…Rose Huizenga, the co-founder and director of Gili Shark Conservation, on the tiny island of Gili Air in Indonesia. Setting up a new conservation organisation has been a challenge but Rose believes that patience and a willingness to always learn is what has led to her success. Read on to learn more!

Name: Rose Huizenga

Job Title: Co-founder and Director

Organisation: Gili Shark Conservation

  • What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?

Eight years ago I arrived on a tiny island called Gili Air in Indonesia and instantly fell in love with this magical island. I found a job as a scuba dive instructor and started calling the ocean my office.

I witnessed on a daily basis the dramatic change of the reefs of the Gili Islands. Indonesia is the number one shark-fishing nation in the world, and has been for decades. There aren’t many sharks left in the oceans and it’s a critical place and time for shark and marine conservation. In 2015 two of my friends and I decided that it was time to stop dreaming and start acting and we started Gili Shark Conservation.

  • What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?

When I started our project I didn’t have all the knowledge I needed, neither did I have years of experience. All I had was an intention, a lot of energy and the desire to be part of the solution. I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines anymore and watch how other people try to solve a problem which we are all responsible for.

I truly believe that self-growth is key to living a fulfilling life and having a successful career. Never stop learning, there are always new skills to learn and research methods for us to adopt.

  • Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

I love to see that we are really making a difference. On average we spend eight hours a week underwater collecting data on sharks, turtles and corals and so far we have completed close to 1000 survey dives.

We love to share our knowledge; we’ve trained 254 people to be scientific divers and on a weekly basis we teach 120 local children about the world of conservation.

What started as a dream has become more than a full time job. Though it never feels like work, I’m blessed that I can go to work every day and do something I’m truly passionate about!

  • Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 

Yes! We are making a difference by teaching the next generation what they can do to protect ‘their’ ocean and ‘their’ island. I believe that with the right knowledge and tools, this next generation will have a great impact on the future, making better choices regarding diverse lifestyle habits in order to maintain their paradise. I also believe they would inspire others by their actions. And when their turn comes, teach others.

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?  

Starting a conservation project in a foreign country with a guy you just gave the key to your heart, is definitely a challenge. I’ve learned so much over the last five years. Successful projects don’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of planning to get an idea off the ground and actually turn it into a success. But it can be done and it’s very rewarding!

I’ve learned how important it is to celebrate achievements. When you don’t celebrate your successes, then they tend to just pass you by. You create new goals to replace the old ones and the cycle continues. Now I know how important it is to stop once in a while and reflect on the moments and achievements. Because when you don’t celebrate your successes, you have a higher chance of burning out or being left with the question of “why am I doing all of this?” So write down your goals and reward yourself when you reach them. Make it memorable. Celebrate. You deserve it!

  • Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?

To work in conservation you need a lot of patience. So much patience. It can take years of patience, or even a decade before you start to see big results from all the time and hard work you’ve put in, and it can be frustrating as hell.

The solution? Learn how to be more patient than everybody else and keep putting in the hard work, no matter what anyone else tells you to do. That’s the only way to reach success.

  • What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

Don’t Wait Until You’re 100% Ready To Start!

People think that they need more money, more experience, and more education before they can start working on their dream idea… only to find out that they still need more money, more experience, and more education ; – )

Being a perfectionist myself, I am often scared to start working on my crazy ideas because I am worried that I am not experienced enough or that I won’t be good enough to succeed. I have had to work on this and continue to work on changing my perspective and overcoming my insecurities.

They truth is, we will never be 100% ready to start a new idea or project. We will always lack some education and will probably also lack the money and experience we think we need to start. You want to know the crazy thing though? These things come as we begin to just work and do. One of the best ways to learn something is to throw yourself right into the action.

When you follow your passions instead of the crowd, you quickly realize you made the right choice. Even though the path in front of you is filled with barriers, even though your work is not always going to be easy, have faith you can overcome anything! Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. And if you haven’t found it yet…. keep looking and don’t settle!

  • What is your favourite marine creature and why?  

Definitely sharks! Big or small, all sharks have my highest respect as they have been in existence for the last 400 million years. I can’t wait for the day that my girls are old enough that I can take them scuba diving and show them these magical creatures.

  • What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  

When I saw a dolphin swimming next to me on a morning dive in Alor – Indonesia. There is no better feeling than to start the day with a dive; every time I jump into the ocean, it feels like going home.


Thank you Rose, to find out more about Gili Shark Conservation click here 

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