Swimming with dolphins and seals, captain and owner of Sea All Dolphin Swims and founder of Southern Ocean Environmental Link (SOEL), James ‘Murph’ Murphy doesn’t have your traditional office. Out on the waters of Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay each day, Murph, has witnessed firsthand the detrimental impacts of plastic pollution on Australia’s marine environment.
From marine birds with stomachs full of plastic to seals entangled in fishing line, the visible impacts of plastic pollution are undeniable and at times, irreversible. There was even one instance in Corio Bay, Geelong, a few years ago where plastic from a landfill on the north shore leeched into the ocean, causing all individuals of a certain species of fish to be born and remain female, effectively destroying that local population and destabilising the local food web.
Whether it is debris from fishermen or general litter from visitors, Murph suggests we all have a role to play in the plastic crisis threatening our oceans. This is why he is on a mission to clean up Australia’s waters and safeguard them for future generations through his plastic recycling and education program for students in partnership with SOEL.
SOEL was founded to change people’s attitudes toward the marine environment and to educate the next generation about current trends, future implications and environmental stewardship. Their various projects, such as the plastic recycling program, aim to provide participants with the tools to achieve this vision. Through donations and fundraising efforts, SOEL can facilitate interpretive marine experiences that are proven to create marine environment advocates.
SOEL’s school group programs are centred on marine education and aim to show students how our actions can impact the marine environment, regardless of where they live. Including an interactive experience on the water where students have the opportunity to get up close with marine life, the program educates participants about the impact plastic is having on wildlife and the fragile marine ecosystems that support them. After the students meet the wild marine animals on the boat tour, they then head to the SOEL recycling centre. Here they learn the entire process involved in recycling plastic bottle caps, from collection right through to repurposing into new usable items, which they can take as souvenirs. Seeing the process through from start to end shows students how each of us can have an impact on the marine environment and that the steps to help improve its health are easy and achievable.
Murph believes that it is important for young people to become involved in, not just marine advocacy, but environmental advocacy more broadly. “They need to understand at their core that our experience here on earth is not about how much money we make or which car we drive,” he said, “it is about the impact that each of us makes toward the survival of all life on earth.”
Murph knows that marine advocacy forms just one part of a larger environmental problem and, through educating students, hopes to emphasise that it is our choices that determine the future of our planet.
It was, therefore, an easy decision to incorporate these values into the business model of Sea All Dolphin Swims. Combining their renowned marine education with Australia’s first hands-on plastic recycling workshop demonstrates to participants some of the simple and effective ways to make a difference and alleviate some of the hopelessness surrounding environmental conservation. Murph firmly believes that through active participation in the recycling program, participants “take away more than just a new product, they take away a sense of hope and empowerment”.
Photo credits: James Murphy/Southern Ocean Environmental Link