We all want to be green and protect our environment which is why you walk to the supermarket, eat sea-bass not bream and haven’t bought plastic bottles since you’ve seen pictures of the Pacific Trash Vortex.
Australian born Brad Robertson however does a lot more than mind his carbon footprint and make sustainable seafood choices. He made the move to Mallorca 5 years ago and over the years has become more and more involved with multiple marine conservation projects which rapidly resulted in the setting up of Asociación Ondine -an organisation aspiring to protect and improve local marine ecosystems around the Balearics. “He is a man with a passion who’s desperately driven to make his little corner of the planet a better place for everybody” says David Diley, Independent film-maker, environmental campaigner and shark nut who filmed both A Ray of Light 1 & 2 about Brad Robertson and his stingray conservation efforts.
Brad Robertson feels most comfortable under the water. “No mobile phones, no noise, no people, no machines..” Born in Sydney and having spent ten years in North Queensland, home of the world’s largest coral reef system ‘The Great Barrier Reef’ it comes as no surprise that Brad’s been a keen diver for as long as he can remember. He even claims it’s one of the main reasons he’s so passionately involved in these projects. “I’m a diver, a diver that loves to observe and interact with marine creatures and as there’s not so many of them in the Mediterranean it would be really nice to see a complete reversal of what’s been happening here in these waters.”
In 2013 Brad and his Ondine team had heard talk about the existence of a large number of ‘our flat friends’ in the Bay of Palma and after a few exploratory dives indeed discovered a rather dense population of stingrays that frequent a location close to the Island’s airport. “What I have witnessed in Mallorca has been nothing short of amazing. The Island is not at all known as a diving hotspot for stingrays but we have come across not only five different large Rough Tail Stingrays, measuring a mammoth 1.8 metres wide and over 3 metres long, but also hundreds of Common Stingrays which can reach up to 1.4 metres in width.” This first official venture didn’t only prove to be successful scientifically but also touched tourists and locals alike, as shown in the large amount of texts, emails and calls from excited people around the Balearics that had spotted a ray!
After this initial project Brad embarked on what is possibly the largest privately funded stingray monitoring program ever conducted in the Med. It took place over three days and involved 18 maritime professionals, 2 boats, 2 kids, 1 dog and 135 stingrays! Their mission was to catch and tag common stingrays in order to monitor and learn valuable information about their movement patterns, growth rate and behaviour. The bigger picture being that this better understanding will eventually lead to being able to advise the local government on how to manage this particular population. Considering how many rays they had encountered during the 2013 Stingray Survey their goal of catching, measuring, tagging and releasing 100 rays was quite easily achieved.
Phase 3 is planned for 2015 and will involve the use of more advanced technologies such as audio transmitters tags and receivers. A modest man, Brad says he’s “just a normal bloke that has an interest in fish and has had the ability to get off his bum and do something about it!” I’m pretty sure I’m speaking for all divers, snorkelers, swimmers, boat owners, fishermen and everyone else on the planet that likes to spend time on or in the Med by saying I’m very grateful he did!
If you want to know more about Brad and his concerns with marine conservation make sure you watch A Ray of Light & A Ray of light II and check out the Asociación Ondine’s website to see how you or your company could support the Ondine team make Mallorca and the Mediterranean a better protected and more fish friendly place.