Moving Sushi, fighting for the ocean

The Tribal Leader
The Tribal Leader
October 5, 2018

Moving Sushi is an inspirational movement indeed, what really speaks to us is how it all began, with a trip across the world that documented those aiding in conservation along the way.

1. What inspired you and Mike to take the plunge and make a trip of this nature

We were both living and working in Mayumba ,Gabon with the wildlife conservation society way back in 2006. It was a time where we cut our conservation teeth thanks to our amazing boss. We were very green and filled with a kind of young, bullish candour that we had just come out of university and knew a lot about everything and we were now going to save the world. Conservation work, it turned out, is actually incredibly difficult because of the constant setbacks and demoralising situations that you run up against , often at every turn. What inspired us were the men and women we were working with in that park that had this boundless enthusiasm, even in the face of constant issues, to keep going. Their passion and their dedication imprinted on us in a big way, and we wanted to travel the world, along the coastlines to meet and learn from similar people in their country specific context. That was how Moving Sushi was born, and it took us two years driving from Cape Town to Japan and back to uncover these amazing people and projects dedicated to ocean conservation.

2. Did you foresee Moving Sushi becoming such a driving force and platform for marine conservation?

Oh no never, and we still don’t think we are a driving force at all. There are so many others out there working at higher levels or in incredibly difficult circumstances, we are just doing our part in the best way we know how. We honestly just do what we do because we are passionate about the work and it means a lot to us and we have also seen so much it would be hard to not care.

3. You’ve travelled Africa extensively and dived some fantastic destinations (some might say the best), can you single out a destination that was particularly special for you to dive?

Northern Mozambique and the Quirimba archipelago are very special for us. They are remote and still have a high integrity of fish biomass and diversity, it’s some of the least spoiled reef we have seen.

4. There are many causes worth fighting for when it comes to marine conservation, is there a particular cause which you see as particularly critical that we can shine a light on here?
There are so many issues facing our oceans, and in many respects no cause is more important than the other because they are all connected. We, personally, are invested in the plight of fisheries and fisheries resources socially, culturally and biologically. We feel those three aspects allow long term sustainability to be effective.

5. What can our readers as individuals do to help bolster this cause?

While we work on a big scale when it comes to the causes we believe in there are a lot of things that people, as individuals, groups, companies or organisations, can do to bolster their efforts to look after our marine environment. Something very basic and easily implementable things you can start doing right now, basic but fundamental if we are going to make a change to our current state is reduce our plastic consumption (reduce, repurpose and recycle) as much as you can, eliminating all plastics from your life if possible. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think, and the more we do this the more we spare these items form ending up in the ocean, causing loss of life and pollution that takes years to degrade, if it even does at all (as is the case with some plastics) It’s so simple, but it is incredibly effective. We also need to start coming to terms with the very real effects of climate change and start putting pressure on where we can to further efforts to combat it, both in local and international agreements.

6. At Tribal Tourist we’re passionate about eco-tourism and environmental sustainability, when it comes to marine life, would you say its important for people to experience these creature up close and personal to fully understand their beauty? If so where do you believe the line should be drawn so we don’t interfere with the ecosystem in any way?

We feel very strongly about taking a stance on unethical wildlife interactions, both on land and in the ocean. This basically means that under no circumstances would we be doing anything that involved getting up close and personal with an animal under duress or not by its own free choice. Chasing down pods of dolphins with boats just so you can dive with them is not on, (neither is walking with lions or petting cubs or riding elephants or even donkeys or ostriches for that matter) A while ago Mike was freediving out in Mozambique. As he was getting back onto the boat he noticed the massive arch of a Sail fish fin cutting through the water. He quietly slipped back into the blue and waited. This magnificent creature came right up to him, moved left, moved right all the while glancing at him with its huge glassy eye. After a few seconds, and with a flick of its powerful fins it bulleted back out into the depths. Having a true experience with any creature is far more meaningful than forcing the interaction with unscrupulous activities that are more concerned about how much it costs than what is the cost to the wildlife. When the wildlife interaction becomes more about your own personal gain than the welfare and consequences of the situation for the animal I start to question the validity of it as real ecotourism or just greenwashing. It is important for people to get out and experience the beauty of the wilds, but if it means that you don’t get that sighting or get that photo the first time, or even the tenth, you need to be ok with that. When the day comes day when you do have a true interaction, it will be that life changing experience you are imagining , but without doing harm.

7. What do you believe needs to happen to create a sustainable future for the coral reefs across the African coasts, so they can continue to provide nourishment for the millions of people in those regions, not to mention be conducive to ecological growth for the reefs themselves?

These problems have a two-pronged approach. We need to tackle climate change and ocean acidification issues because no matter how much we want to manage our reefs and control fishing pressure, if the coral is bleached due to sustained high water temperatures there is no way to start undoing this damage without having to look for complete alternatives to coral rebuilding. We have to think about the bigger picture. And while we are, we have to be more strict and effective in how we use the resource on the daily. Much better integration between management authorities, fishers, tourism, communities needs to happen all round as well as all of us having a stake in the fight against global climate change.

8. Creating a comparative database is no doubt a critical first step in making this happen, can you take our readers through why this is?
In creating a base line data set you create information at a point in time. Eg. On this day we observed this. That type of data is very useful to give you a guideline on what is and what isn’t being observed. Problem is we don’t know on that date when we observed that data if this is the case all the time. And the only way we can start picking up trends is if we have comparative data sets. The greater you repeat your sampling the more resolution you have in understanding in what is going on. In East Africa, comparative data concerning coral reef health and fish assemblage does not exist at an ecosystem scale. What is happening to the coral reefs –we don’t know? What is happening to a small specific reef- well we know because there is someone who has had the ability to study it. But we need to think bigger. Which is why we put together our East African Marine Transect that did just that, and our latest expedition The Africa Marine Mega Transect this year. (both of these data sets are freely available to anyone under creative commons who wants to use them –on our site) We can’t neglect our knowledge on the system as a whole because it is all connected.

9. As someone who has travelled extensively, which destinations would you recommend in Africa as adventure destinations?

Africa is a continent that is as diverse as it’s people. When it comes to adventure it really will depend on your tastes because from the North to the South there is probably every conceivable adventure I could think of. Personally, I love getting out into the waters or connecting to unusual areas that are ecologically unique to the specific country. Senegal is a firm favourite return destination for us not just because of the fantastic surfing but also exploring out into the Casamance with its rich biodiversity. South Africa, our home, of course is an adventure seekers paradise, while Mike would spend his days surfing, diving or exploring the fascinating worlds of the inner tides and rock pools I would hike some of the unbelievable costal trails, like the Oystercatcher or Darling stagger to get up close and personal with the beauty of the ocean to land connection. Uganda and Rwanda are prime trekking destinations. Who would not balk at the chance to head up into the mountains to spend an hour with the Gorillas? Gabon is not for everyone as it is challenging but for those seeking something truly unique (we use to live there for a while) like watching hundreds of endangered leatherback turtles crawling up the beach to nest, it is life affirming. Mozambique, and in particular the Bazaruto Archipelago , is an underwater adventure land, and a little easier to access are the equally favourite diving spots of our on Mafia and Pemba island in Tanzania.

10. Lastly, if you could be any marine animal which would it be and why?

If Mike could be any marine animal he would definitely be a Blue Fin tuna. They are incredible fish, built for speed and purpose and of course they are endangered, so as many of them as we can get in the ocean would only be a good thing. I would be a Lemur. While they are not ocean creatures, they inhabit islands in the far reaches of the ocean, quirky and a little odd and full of adventure. Mike and I have always had an ocean/land balance in our approach to our work so it’s fitting we would both be animals from both areas.

The Tribal Leader
The Tribal Leader

Matthew Kearns is the Tribal Leader for Tribal Tourist & based in Cape Town, South Africa. He spends most of his time creating the best adventures in Africa and searching for amazing stories to share with his fellow Tribe members. Matthew likes to go mountain biking, fishing & spending time with the family.

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