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Crookedfinger Art: Sustainable Fashion & Art

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Crookedfinger Art is an expression of my person style and creative impulses. – Kim Cadenhead

Meet Kim! 

Kim Cadenhead is the founder of Crookedfinger Art.  Kim has a unique quirk, two crooked pinky fingers, a result of a genetic glitch.  Her little quirk resulted in the inspiration for her company name, it is an ode to her unique characteristic which she embraces and has allowed her to flourish as an artist with her original artistic style.  Kim is passionate about various medias for art projects.  Her portfolio includes: paintings on canvas, mixed media, handcrafted sustainable products and graphic t-shirt designs.  Kim recently took part in an artist workshop in North Carolina.  The workshop gave Kim an opportunity to grow as an artist and finesse her painting skills.  Her experience there lead to her latest creative endeavor a series of floral paintings on both canvas and repurposed wooden trays— both wonderful works of art for home decor.

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Kim is an artist who is inspired by the environment around her and incorporates the very essence of her surroundings into her paintings, handmade items and mixed media projects.  In my humble option, I view Kim’s most recent floral collection as having a touch of influence from impressionist paintings incorporated with her own modern signature style, blending beautifully together.  Her floral paintings from her 2016 collection are my personal favorites.  Kim sells both original canvas artwork and canvas prints.

Sustainable Fashion and Eco Art

Since moving from Toronto, Canada to the Cayman Islands, Kim has visited local thrift shops to gather materials for her latest sustainable art projects.  It is her aspiration to repurpose materials found locally and transform them in sustainable handcrafted products including: beach tote bags, hand tote bags, messenger bags rugs, pot holders, coasters and even mixed media art pieces.

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It is rather astounding when you take a moment to realize the magnitude of materials available that has the potential to be repurposed and used in a sustainable way.  All of her eco-friendly items are handmade.  Kim’s sustainable art pieces have all been made from magazines that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.  Kim is an artist with an eco-conscious mindset.  Her sustainable fashion and home products prove that recycled and repurposed materials can be transformed into chic sustainable products.

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Support Local

Kim’s artwork and eco-friendly products are available for sale at Art Nest Creative Studio, at Pasadora Place.  You can also visit Kim at Camana Bay’s local Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays.

Stay Connected

Follow Kim on Facebook, click here

Follow Kim on Instagram, click here 

Visit her website, click here 

 

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Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet

 

Photo Credit: National Geographic

SEA OF HOPE follows iconic ocean explorer and conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle, renowned underwater photographer Brian Skerry, author and captain Max Kennedy, and their unlikely crew of teenage aquanauts on a year-long quest to secure their future. Deploying science and photography, they hope to inspire the creation of blue parks across an unseen and imperiled American wilderness.

It was an absolute honor to be published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories.  Please visit their website to read my full article Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet.  Sea of Hope is airing 15th January 2017 on National Geographic.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

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Epiphany: How A Family Of Explorers & Conservationists Overcame Their Fears

 

View Epiphany Movie Trailer

A popular definition of epiphany as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is: “A moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.  For me, an epiphany is a sublime moment.  It is an awakening, when your thoughts come into focus and there is a moment of clarity.  The opportunity presents itself as an illuminating thought.  A moment of such great revelation can bring forth incredible things.

I have had the privilege to get to know award-winning filmmaker and wildlife cinematographer Michael Maes and his wife Ellen Cuylaerts, an award-winning wildlife photographer.  They are truly two of the most amazing people I have ever met.  They are inspiring, compassionate, kind, generous, brave and humble people.  I am grateful to know them.  As a family they live intriguing and extraordinary lives as explorers and conservationists.  They explore the world and use their gifts and talents in film and photography to share their passion for conservation with the world.  An underlying message in their documentary Epiphany is the power of film and photography.  I am a firm believer that art whether it is in the form of film, photography, writing or any other genre has the ability to create change and have a positive impact.  The photographs and film both Michael and Ellen share with the world captures stunning encounters with wildlife, marine life and spectacular scenic views of nature.  It serves to remind us this planet is worth fighting for and protecting.  Art has an incredible ability to connect us all on a universal level.

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For Michael and Ellen, film and photography is a means for them to contribute to nature and conservation— a way of giving back.  They use their films and photography to educate, and create awareness about various environmental issues.  A strong image whether captured in a still photograph or a moving picture can evoke emotion, share a powerful message and allow an opportunity for one to be enlightened and enriched.  In particular, a scene in their documentary Epiphany with Whale Sharks captures a collection of beautiful moments spent in the presence of these majestic creatures.  There is utter tranquility within this scene and the Whale Sharks swim gracefully.  The scene showed the majesty of sharks— they are not to be feared but respected.  Other scenes with Oceanic White Tips present the elegant poises and patterns of these sharks as they glide through the water, depicting them beautifully in their natural habitat.  The sharks and divers were able to inhabit the space harmoniously.  It is important to note, the divers still had to remain very vigilant at all times.  Ellen and Michael take great care in the composition of their photography by ensuring they develop a connection with the wildlife during their encounter and allow that to translate in their photography.  By doing so, it creates a powerful image illustrating that there is a story and meaning behind every photograph.  The heart of their photography and film is to remind us all what a privilege it is to live on this beautiful planet and to not take for granted our natural resources, the environment, the ocean and all animals.  There is a great urgency for a united effort and action to happen globally to increase conservation of the environment and protection of all animals.  As advocates for the ocean they are keen to promote awareness of the urgency to protect sharks.  Ellen and Michael use film and photography to promote conservation and help rehabilitate the image of sharks by showing us that sharks are to be respected not feared.  The real fear is a life without sharks.  The reality is if sharks continue to be slaughtered for their fins and their population continues to rapidly decline they will face extinction.  Sharks have been roaming the ocean immensely longer than humans have inhabited the planet.  It would be a great tragedy for sharks to become extinct.  There is no coming back from extinction.

 

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Recently, I had the opportunity to watch their documentary Epiphany a film that is inspiring and moving.  The film left a profound impact on me.  It is a film that I hold dear to my heart, as it was truly special to watch a film friends of mine had made and with such admirable bravery they shared their story with the world.  I implore others to watch their award-winning documentary which is currently available on iTunes.  The documentary touches on a variety of themes: the power of art and film, conservation of sharks, environmentalism, Autism, the unbreakable bond of a family and finding bravery to overcome fear.  Michael and his family are incredibly courageous to share a vulnerable side of their lives and their journey through life with the world.  Primarily, the narrative of the film tells the journey of Ellen and how she finds the bravery to overcome her fear of the ocean.  It is her kids that leads Ellen back to nature.  It is on this journey, Ellen rediscovers her love for photography which allows her to overcome her fear of the water by swimming with sharks and photographing them.  The film also touches on Michael and their kids Margaux and Max leading extraordinary lives with autism.  A takeaway from their documentary is that there is a need in this world to look past each others differences and accept one another as they are.  We are all uniquely different and that is what adds to our individual beauty.  There is a need for society to stop labelling and creating divides due to differences— being different can be a remarkable gift.  A beautiful message within in the film, is the families unbreakable bond.  The diagnosis of Autism running in their family understandably initially created a feeling of isolation, fear and hardship.  However, together as a family they were able to thrive and live out their passions.  All of them having wonderfully marvelous courageous lives.  As a family they inspire us all to live a life of compassion, kindness and bravery.

 

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The power and healing of nature is beautifully interwoven within the story which unfolds throughout the documentary.  Nature serves as a catalyst to connect the family together, strengthen their bond and open doors for amazing opportunities to share their passion for conservation, film, photography and art.  A beautiful synergy is built between the family as they collectively immerse themselves in exploring nature and the depths of the ocean.  A profound message the documentary presents is that Ellen is able to move past her fear of the ocean and develop a trust within nature.  The ocean serves as a bit of a paradox in Ellen’s life, while on one hand it is the foundation of her fear of water, yet on the other, it serves to inspire her to contribute to conservation, follow her passion of photography and connect deeply with her family.  By having nature as an integral component of their lives, the differences within the family does not create walls to divide them, in fact nature bridges the family together and anchors them.  Moreover, through expeditions exploring nature, it brings forth a bravery within each of them to overcome their own personal fears.  Through their conservation efforts and giving back to nature, each of them were able embrace their individualism and remain true to themselves and their passion for the environment, photography, film and art.

Meet Michael Maes

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Michael Maes is a wildlife filmmaker, specialized in big animals and animal behavior. His portfolio (both underwater and topside) covers the polar regions, temperate waters and the tropics. He has a passionate interest for polar bears and Arctic whales.

His work has been broadcast on various national television like Nat Geo Wild, Outside Television, CBC. It also received recognition at a myriad of international film festivals; reflecting the ability to translate the need for wildlife conservation onto the screen.

In 2015 Michael was inducted as cinematographer in the Ocean Artists Society (http://www.oceanartistssociety.org), an organization uniting artists worldwide to raise awareness and protect the marine environment through art. Michael is also a founding Navigator of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (http://www.reefresearch.org), a leading scientific research centre in the Caribbean focusing on coral reef restoration, research on coral resilience, and ocean education.

More About Michael  

Website michaelmaes.com   (Currently Under Construction)

Check out some of his recent Arctic Work:

 

Q & A with Award-winning Filmmaker Michael Maes

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1. What inspired the documentary and for you to tell this story?

Ellen Cuylaerts; my wife; challenged herself to overcome her fear of water and sharks, culminating her personal growth by feeding those feared sharks. That was the story to which many viewers can relate to.

2. What is the heart of the documentary? Or the core message for audiences to take from watching the film?

Basically Epiphany is a story about all of us. Everyone has his or her fears, everyone faces challenges of life, we can all make decisions to alter our paths.

Epiphany shows the viewer setbacks can be turned into strongholds of life itself.

In short, Epiphany is a story of hope.

3. Did you face any challenges while making this documentary?

Apart from logistical nightmares, the complete lack of privacy for our family during the 18 months of filming was very exigent. Although most of the shootings were at dream locations, we constantly had cameras and microphones pointed at or near us. Especially Ellen as I was fortunate enough to be behind the camera for most of the underwater filming and all areal cinematography.

Next would be the communication between the producer (me) and the rest of the crew. Having autism makes it very difficult to communicate my thoughts; up to a point where I even think I “say” something but I actually only “think” it. That has lead to many difficult situations, frustrations and even words. But, ultimately and always thanks to Ellen, we regrouped and were able to finish a gem.

4. What was one key lesson you learned from making this film?

Don’t think what you say but say what you think!

5. Is there a particular scene in the documentary that resonates with you or has the most significant meaning to you?

To me the most emotional scene in the documentary is at the end where Ellen stands strong among tens of sharks circling her and I (you can’t see that of course as I am filming it) am lying flat on the sand at her feet; filming Ellen from that extreme low angle; all the way up to the water surface; sharks everywhere.

That scene grabs me the most as it portrays in images the fact that Ellen conquered her fear, surrounded by sharks yet she is the one who is in charge! There she stands, holding food next to her body, telling the sharks with her body-language to not come in for the food… she… her… your wife… the mother of your two children… surrounded by sharks… I cannot express how powerful that scene is for a filmmaker who’s the husband of the talent…

As a cinematographer that scene also grabs me as it is – excuse-moi the bragging – simply a formidable shot completed by the genius score of music written by the Belgian musician Eric Bettens.

6. What was your favorite filming location?

Honestly? None! They all had their particular challenges and filmic rewards. A favorite moment I could tell you: a close to two hour dive with only Ellen and myself at Tiger Beach. We were down there without bait or chum. We just wanted to have our Zen moment; away from the fuzzy madness of the production. Did we get rewarded for being there: we had three 12 feet tiger sharks and a bunch of lemons and reefies. A mind-blowing peaceful moment! This footage did not end up in the documentary as the sequences were too long and beautiful to cut. Now that Epiphany is released I will review those amazing scenes again.

7. What do you hope this documentary will accomplish? Or what is your goal or hope for this film?

Of course we want to spread awareness on the sad condition sharks are facing globally. But we also want people to think about their own life and take action if they want to. We want Epiphany to bring hope to those whom are trapped in a fixed pattern, caught in a seemingly hopeless situation.

8. What does the film mean to you and your family?

30 months of blood, sweat and tears.

9. Do you believe film and art has the power to help bring positive changes to the environment?

Many of the world’s environmental issues are far out of reach of most people. Pictures and film bring those issues closer to many, though often in the hard “documenting” way – which is good of course.

Bringing the animals and their world to the beholder in all beauty – nature as it is – makes people see the beauty of those animals. This could lessen the fear of the unknown and invoke interest in the animal or its habitat. Every time I get a message from someone I don’t know telling me some work of mine made him or her get interested in that animal or its environment, is a bigger reward to me than a paycheck.

10. Do you find using art and film as a medium allows you to see the impact and changes in the environment differently, than as opposed to just reading about the issues our environment faces?

As I am a person whom thinks in images, I would believe so. However I feel this question should better be answered by an avid and passionate reader.

More Info about Epiphany 

Website            : www.epiphany.movie

Epiphany on iTunes : https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/epiphany/id1169290433

Trailer Epiphany                     : https://vimeo.com/156486645

Special Thanks

Special thanks: Photos and video courtesy of Michael Maes and Ellen Cuylaerts

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For The Love Of Animals: Ian Somerhalder Foundation Medical Emergency Grants

 

Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

A truly heartwarming initiative was started by the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) to aid in the rescue and rehabilitation of animals that have heartbreaking stories of being abused, neglected or suffered a traumatic injury.  These animals are deserving and in need of a second chance.  ISF created their Medical Emergency Program to extend compassion to these animals and assist in aiding to their recovery and wellbeing.  ISF launched their Medical Emergency Grant Program on Valentine’s Day, 2014.  A day symbolizing a commitment of love and compassion towards animals— inspiring others to do the same.  Since the inception of this program, they have helped over 1,000 animals including: cats, dogs, turtles, birds, bats, horses, sheep, cows, sea lions, goats, rabbits, and more.  All have benefited from an ISF Medical Emergency Grant— giving them an improved quality of life, resulting in a touching success stories.  These animal rescues are now living happier lives with their new families in their forever homes. The testimony of these animals show, that animals have an incredible resilience no matter how difficult the hardship they faced.  They also remind of us of the incredible bond animals establish with humans, despite the suffering they endured, once they found a new and loving family in a safe environment they continue to express love unconditionally.

Animals have an exquisitely poignant way of teaching us, through demonstration, how to love and be loved. We learn compassion, as well as expand our perception of the infinite connection to the environment around us, from our creature friends–whether they are furry and lick us, or slither and swim. We owe it to these creatures to provide protection, healing and love. That is exactly why I am so proud that the IS Foundation has launched our first grant program — the Emergency Medical Grant for Animals – Ian Somerhalder

ISF provides grants to both the US and Canada and works closely with dedicated teams of amazing rescuers in various parts of the US and Canada who are on the front line every day finding animals in need of a better life and urgent care.  These admirable individuals advocate on the behalf of these animals.  Animals that receive an Emergency Medical Grant have been found either, abused, neglected or have suffered a traumatic injury.  ISF reviews applications and typically makes a decision within a week.  They then have the money sent out the following week to the treating veterinarians and rescuers.  The ISF Medical Emergency Grant criteria and eligibility can be found on the ISF website, Grant Information Page.  “The purpose of this grant is to provide animal victims a second chance by alleviating their rescuers of the financial stress of treatment so they can focus on facilitating the animal’s adoption into a permanent, loving home” ISF works with individuals, animal rescuers, veterinarians and non-profit organizations seeking to rescue and rehabilitate animal victims.  (ISF)

The ISF Medical Emergency Grants Program has done an incredible job of bettering the lives of so many animals.  Animals that have had the opportunity to recover and rehabilitate now have wonderful success stories inspiring us all to help protect and care for animals in need.  ISF has established a network of dedicated animal rescuers (grantees) and built amazing relationships with them over the past 2 years.  Their collaboration and teamwork has created a positive impact.  An added bonus, the ISF have met so many loving animals that have greatly benefited from their program.  In instances when the animal in need and the rescuer are near by, the ISF take the opportunity to meet with the animal and rescuer(s).  The ISF have shared a plethora of wonderful heartwarming success stories of the animals they have help give a second chance to. To read their success stories visit their grant success page.  Their dedication to provide resources to assist in bringing a life changing positive impact on the lives of animals that have deeply suffered, inspires us all to work together to be a voice for animal victims that have endured a painful hardship.

Must Love Animals

Below are a few success stories of the ISF Medical Emergency Grant

Meet Elsa

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Ozzy

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Twinkle Toes

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

To support the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and stay up-to-date with their projects follow them on Facebook and Twitter or visit their website 

The Cayman Islands: A Haven for Sharks & Rays

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

The Cayman Islands has built its name and reputation primarily on being a renowned diving destination.  Pioneers in our local diving community over the last few decades contributed to building our diving industry into the premier operation that it is today.  They recognized the exquisite beauty our underwater landscape had to offer and have since then made it accessible for locals and tourists to recreationally experience and explore the beauty that lies below the surface for themselves.  With a desire to showcase our natural resources comes with a commitment to preserve them.  Our duty towards conservation for both land and the ocean is beneficial not just from an environmental perspective but also an economic one.  Our tourism industry is strongly tied to our island’s natural resources.  Ergo, an obvious reason to ensure that our natural resources are protected.  Last year on Earth Day (2015), the Cayman Islands officially became a Sharks and Rays Sanctuary.  The sanctuary expands across all three islands.  This is a positive step towards ecotourism as many tourists are keen to visit places that are committed to conservation.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

“I’m extremely grateful that the Cayman Islands recognized the need to make the islands a shark and ray sanctuary. Not only will their protected status benefit the health of the reefs but it’s also a strong statement towards the tourism industry which is an important source of revenue. By protecting our natural resources the Cayman Islands puts itself in the the market of the informed and eco friendly tourist making the right choice for the future generations.” -Ellen Cuylaerts

Sharks in the Water

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

By virtue of us standing by and not acting to protect coral reefs and marine life that are under threat there is a very likely possibility that corals reefs will continue to become degraded and even destroyed.  The caribbean has already lost 80% of its coral reefs.  There is an intricate connection between coral reefs and all marine life.  If keystone species such as sharks continue to decrease in population it will have a tremendous impact on the coral reefs and the marine life that depend on the reefs.  A scary thought that should be racing through everyone’s minds is what if I never see a shark in the water again?  Our fear should be driven by the thought of what will happen to our ocean and the ecosystem if shark populations globally continues to spiral down or worse become extinct.  Sharks are a keystone species and are fundamental to maintaining the health and balance of: coral reefs, marine life and the ocean.  Without their presence there could potentially be a devastating collapse within our fragile ecosystem as their role in keeping our “life support” viable is monumental.  Ultimately, we need a healthy ocean as 70% of the world’s oxygen comes from there.  Healthy shark populations means healthy reefs.  Coral reefs support 1/4 of all marine life.  Healthy reefs means a flourishing population of marine life.  This is beneficial for: our ecosystem, recreational divers, snorkelers and for fisherman.  Balance within our ecosystem is key to benefiting the preservation of the planet, as well as a thriving diving industry, tourism industry and fisherman.

We can’t fail to act to protect our ocean and marine life.  The ocean is often referred to as the heart of the planet.  There seems to be a collective assumption that the ocean is indestructible, that no matter the amount of pollution pumped into the ocean it will always reset itself, that there will always be coral reefs and an abundance of fish, sharks and all marine life.  It is as though we cannot fathom the thought that it could all go away one day.  The reality is the ocean like anything else has its limitations.  We cannot keep testing the ocean’s ability to bounce back.  It is evident that the ocean is under an immense amount stress due to climate change and the rapid decrease in the populations of a multitude of marine species.  For instance, sharks and rays are under threat.  Every year, 70 million sharks are killed for their fins (Fin Free).  In comparison it is reported that targeted Manta Ray populations have declined by an estimated 56% to 88% in recent years (Wild Aid).  With this in mind, there is an urgency for countries around the world to declare their waters as a shark and rays sanctuary.  The more protection coverage of the ocean for sharks and rays will by virtue allow for coral reefs, and fish populations to have time to recover and recuperate.  This is beneficial to everyone.

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Specifically to our waters, current research indicated that we have a lower shark population than expected for a healthy reef ecosystem.  This suggests that our waters need an increase in sharks to ensure our coral reefs can remain healthy.  Shark populations recover over a significant period of time and sanctuaries can provide a safe haven for populations to recuperate.  Presently, there are no comparative ray nor shark surveys specific to our region.  It is difficult to state how our population of sharks and rays compares to other islands in the Caribbean.  However, some research conducted by Marine Conservation International (Research Partners of Department of Environment Cayman Islands) suggests that Cayman’s shark numbers are relatively low in comparison to our Caribbean neighbors.  Notably, numbers will vary from species to species.  However, our waters have a fair population of sharks and rays. Both species are being threatened across the Caribbean and around the world.  Protecting sharks and rays regionally will benefit not only our territory but also on a global scale as it encourages other countries to designate their waters as a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures.  It is evident that the protection of sharks and rays needs to be made as a united effort, and the Cayman Islands is doing their part to help in this initiative.  Now that our waters have been designated as a shark and ray sanctuary there is hope that it  will give our shark population a chance to recover.

A Sanctuary for Sharks, Rays & Coral Reefs

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The sanctuary serves as a haven for our sharks and rays. Our sharks and rays are of great significance to our coral reefs and marine environment both ecologically and economically.  Most importantly their protection is needed to ensure their survival —our ecosystem depends on it.

The sanctuary also serves as a means to benefit our island not only from an ecological standpoint but economically.  The protection of sharks and rays has a direct impact on benefiting our tourism industry.  Sharks are a highlight for divers.  Whereas, rays can be seen in a large school at Stingray City located at the sandbar on the eastern side of Grand Cayman.  Protecting our sharks and rays within our region will not only allow for a positive impact on improving the health of our coral reefs but also it will help to maintain our status as a popular diving destination.  Flourishing reefs serve us ecologically but as an added bonus they are attractive diving spots helping our tourism industry and economy.

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Declaring Cayman waters as a sharks and rays sanctuary is a positive step towards ecotourism and beneficial for our islands.  Countries making a shift towards ecotourism demonstrates that we can find a balance between developing the economy of a country but not at the cost of losing their natural resources.  It is possible to use our natural resources and benefit from them and not destroy them —rather there is an emphasis on the preservation of natural resources as they have intrinsic value.  Specific to Caribbean islands our natural resources are everything to our tourism industry which greatly impacts our economy.  For Cayman, we could look at the ocean as the very soul of our island.  Our culture is bound to the ocean and it is imperative that we continue to move forward in protecting our ocean, coral reefs, marine life and natural environment.  Cayman’s transition into ecotourism has helped to establish the Cayman Islands as setting a positive example for other islands in the Caribbean by way of encouraging other islands to consider becoming a sharks and rays sanctuary to increase the coverage of areas that serve as a haven for them.  While, our waters protect a small percentage of sharks and rays in our region, and is making a positive impact, it would be greatly beneficial if other regional countries made their waters a sanctuary.  Alone, we can make a small difference, but together we can make a much stronger impact.  Protecting the coral reefs, marine life, sharks and rays is a global need.  

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

This article was also published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories please click here 

Dive Into Shark School with Jessica Harvey

Sharks are fascinating creatures.  Over the years, sharks have often been misunderstood and this helped create a negative perception of sharks.  Gradually, that perception is beginning to shift and sharks are being seen in a more positive light.  If anything, we should be more afraid of not seeing sharks.  Our marine environment has a delicate balance, and everything is interconnected.  Sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of our oceans, keeping marine ecosystems in balance and our coral reefs in check.  Seeing a healthy population of sharks is typically a positive indicator of a healthy coral reef.  

The Cayman Islands is a designated shark sanctuary.  Sharks and rays are a protected species under Cayman’s National Conservation Law.  Here in the Cayman Islands, there are eight species of sharks commonly found in our waters including: Great Hammerhead, Nurse shark, Lemon shark, Caribbean Reef shark, Blacktip, Tiger shark, Oceanic Whitetip and Silky shark. Amongst the variety of shark species found in the Cayman Islands, some species of sharks reside in Cayman waters all year long and inhabit coastal waters.  For many, ocean conservationists, underwater photographers, snorkelers and divers it is considered a privilege to encounter these incredible creatures.  The more people care about sharks, begin to understand the valuable role sharks play for the betterment of our marine ecosystems, and understand the urgency to protect sharks there will be a positive shift in the perception of sharks.  Sharks should be respected not feared.  At the end of the day, people protect what they love.  

There is still so much to learn about sharks and their behaviors.  Education about sharks is key in helping raise awareness about the valuable role sharks play in our marine environment and why protection of sharks is vital.  Jessica Harvey has developed a fascinating documentary series Shark School with Jessica Harvey to help educate people of all ages about sharks.        

Q&A with Jessica Harvey

What inspired your Shark Series?  

JH: The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation conducts expeditions around the world to study and interact with different shark species. We have had such incredible experiences with the largest, fastest and hardest to find sharks and we wanted to share them with them world.

What is the aim of the Shark Series?

JH: Our new documentary, Shark School with Jessica Harvey, aims to educate people of all ages on the biology, behaviour and especially the plight of sharks. The documentary brings a fun twist to learning and is aimed at students ages 8-18 although it is entertaining for the entire family. We want people of all demographics to be knowledgeable on the threats that sharks, and our oceans in general face and we want to have a conversation about how we can all make a difference through lifestyle changes, big or small.

How does the educational series help change the negative perception of sharks to a more positive one?

JH: The media has sensationalized human-shark interactions creating fear around sharing waters with them. Our documentary shows true behaviour and true interactions. Being in the water with sharks can be dangerous, but we can take safety precautions and behave in a way that is not threatening to them and have experiences that will last a lifetime! The more we can convince people to care about sharks, the more the species and ultimately the ocean ecosystem will benefit.

What are some surprising facts about sharks?

JH: Sharks have senses that humans don’t. The ampullae of Lorenzini on their head and snout pick up electrical impulses in the water and the lateral line system picks up pressure changes in their surroundings making them very effective at finding and catching their prey. It also helps them to identify their prey. For example, a fish eating shark will not be attracted to humans swimming in the water because we are simply too big and move differently to a fish, and they can sense these things from a distance.

How would you describe the important role sharks play in our local marine environment?

JH: Sharks are at the top of the food chain. Not only do they control the populations of animals in the trophic levels below them, they also act as garbage collectors cleaning up sick, injured or dying animals keeping disease in check. If you take the coral reef for example, if we lost all species of reef sharks the effects have the potential to cascade down the trophic levels in a cycle of population increases and decreases all the way down to affecting the corals themselves – eventually the coral could become smothered in algae and die. It’s pretty fascinating!

What are some of the species of sharks you have encountered?

JH: I have encountered tiger sharks, reef sharks, great hammerheads and lemon sharks in Bahamas, scalloped hammerheads in Panama, white sharks in Guataloupe, silvertip, silky sharks and whitetip reef sharks in Costa Rica, whale sharks in Mexico, Galapagos sharks in Galapagos Islands, oceanic whiteip and black tip reef sharks in the Cayman Islands and the list goes on. We are so lucky to have so many incredible shark species in our region.

What is your favorite species of shark? 

JH: This is the hardest question! I love all sharks first of all, but among my favourites are tigers, whale sharks and hammerheads…..oh! and oceanic whitetips! How do you choose?!

Tell us more about your documentary Shark School?

JH: The documentary was produced by 2-time Emmy award winner and fellow adventurer, George Schellenger. His passion for sharks and space simultaneously is second to none and he really puts his heart and soul into the stories that he tells through cinematography. Shark School with Jessica Harvey was also endorsed by KIDS FIRST – The Coalition For Quality Children’s Media, who rated it 5 out of 5 stars!

What are some of the main topics covered in your documentary?

JH: The documentary takes you on an underwater journey to learn about the biology, behaviour, evolution, threats and research being conducted by the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) of 10 shark species from the largest shark, the whale shark, to the fastest shark, the mako shark and everything in between. It also covers some interesting facts about other sharks that the GHRI does not study, like the pygmy shark, and uncovers a secret about the so-called Great White Shark.

Tell us more about your shark conservation efforts?

JH: GHOF and GHRI tag and track multiple shark species across the Western Atlantic and Caribbean to learn about their migratory behviour and identify key habits used for activities such as feeding, mating and birthing. Since beginning this type of research in 1999, we have contributed scientific evidence to policy makers influencing changes in laws and management plans in favour of protecting sharks and their habitats. For example, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands EEZs were both designated as shark sanctuaries due to the results of scientific research provided by our studies. Shortfin mako sharks were also added to CITES Appendix II, after studies by GHRI showed that 30% of tagged mako sharks were harvested. This was a huge achievement!

Watch the documentary Shark School with Jessica Harvey

Watch this video for a preview of Shark School with Jessica Harvey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38HlS7vtwuM

View the documentary on Amazon Prime, click this link 

For more, videos visit www.ghof.org and watch for free!

Virtual Wanderlust: New York City

Summer travel plans may be stinted by the current pandemic, that doesn’t mean your sense of curiosity and exploration needs to take 2020 off. In the face of extended closures, many museums and cultural institutes have been exploring ways to bring tourism online. 

New York City is no exception! Many of the city’s landmark museums and some parks have joined Google’s Arts & Culture Platform. Plus, those who haven’t (and even some that have) are hosting their own virtual experience on their websites. 

While these are certainly not as good as being in the city, taking in the sights, smells and sounds with your own senses, virtual experiences can certainly help ease some of your wanderlust until airlines and physical travel become viable again. 

So, without further ado, here are the top NYC virtual experience picks from this newly minted New Yorker… 

Museums 

  1. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA): Every Thursday MOMA is hosting a live, virtual experience of its exhibits. These events include talks and commentary from experts. If you miss a live event, no worries, you can always go back and watch recorded versions of them later.

    https://www.moma.org/magazine/articles/267

  2. The Metropolitan Museum (MET): In addition to it’s Google Culture Platform experience, which focuses in on certain exhibits and pieces of history, you can also wander the MET generally via the 360 project on the museum’s website. Both are great options depending on how you like to digest information and exhibits!

    – Google Culture: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-metropolitan-museum-of-art

    – Met 360: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features/met-360-project 

Entertainment 

While many of NYC’s arts events have wrapped up for the spring season, Carnegie Hall is still going strong with a full host of online live streams. You can find the schedule and links to Facebook or YouTube live streams on their website.

https://www.carnegiehall.org/Explore/Watch-and-Listen/Live-with-Carnegie-Hall#Upcoming  

Parks 

The High Line is one of my favourite walks in NYC for a number of reasons. By transforming what use to be a train track that brought meat products into the city’s meat market district, the city has created a elevated walk that gives you fantastic views of the city. The north end of the walk is also jam-packed with street art and sculpture installations. I also love the bold architecture of some of the new condo developments that have popped-up around the walk — many of which make it feel like you are walking through a futuristic space city.

You can walk the whole High Line via Google’s Arts and Culture platform by clicking here. 

Food

While tasting some of the city’s fine cuisine is not something you can really bring online, there are a few foodies doing their best to create a virtual stand-in. 

The New York City Wine & Food Festival, has launched some online summer courses to promote the in-person festival they hope to hold in October. As of today, you are able to register for a host of amazing online cooking classes to help spruce up your at-home cooking routine: https://nycwff.org/athome/ 

Eataly, the city’s famous Italian food market and restaurant, has been training their Instagram followers on kitchen skills with a series of tantalizing recipes and live cooking events! For more advanced cooking skills, the market has also created online virtual classes to replace their standard in-person cooking courses. If live cooking isn’t your forte, you can also get written copies of their amazing recipes via their online magazine.

Those are just a few of my favourite things to do virtually in the city, but there’s so much more available on the Google’s Arts & Culture Platform and I highly recommend you check them out if you are feeling a little board of your current view and Netflix selection. 

Happy (Virtual) Travels!

Tiffany  

Photo Credit: Tiffany

Green2Go is the Healthy Way to Go 

Living a healthy lifestyle is important for our mind, body and soul.  Now, more than ever people are taking the time to focus on their wellness and overall health.  When you eat well, and exercise daily you feel good.  In addition, you feel happier, a boost of confidence, mental clarity and more energetic.  I have found since I started drinking Cold-Pressed juices my energy levels have gone up, and overall I feel great.  Personally, I love a good green juice post-workout, and if you are looking for a delicious one give Zen by Green2Go a try.  You will love it! 

I first came across Green2Go Cold-Pressed Shots at Bluestone Lane.  There I discovered what is now my all time favorite Green2Go Cold-Pressed Juice shot the Wellness Shot.  Personally, I have found having the Wellness Shot once a day or at least a couple of times a week has helped boost my immune system.  I really enjoy adding my Wellness Shot to a cup of hot water, and enjoy it as a tea.  Other favorites of mine include Espresso Dream (espresso is always a good idea), Zen  and the Vitality Shot.  Having Green2Go deliver some of my favorite Cold-Pressed Juice shots helps make it easier to ensure I get a proper balance of nutrients to keep my immune system boosted.  

Q&A with Green2Go Founders,  Nicholas Adendorff and Martin van Zyl

What inspired you to create Green2Go?

Green2Go was created because we believed there was a need in the community for healthy, convenient, smoothies, juices and shakes. We believed that you could truly change a person’s life for the better if you could get in their hands healthy alternatives made from nutrient dense products with no additives or flavorings.

What is the inspiration or meaning behind the company name?

Green2Go was chosen as a name as we originally started off with one flagship Kale smoothie in a 24oz glass jar that we delivered to peoples homes. A big green smoothie delivered became Green2Go. 

What are some of the positive benefits of drinking 100% Cold-Pressed Juice?

100% Cold-Pressed juice has many advantages. Some being when we extract the juice using a cold-pressed processed, as supposed to a high speed juicer, we keep all the nutrients in tact. The juice is more nutrient dense and has a longer shelf life as well. It is said that cold-pressed juice holds up to 75% more nutrients after a day on the shelf than regular juices made with your average high speed juicer. 

Which is your most popular cleanse and why?

Our most popular cleanse has to be our Ultimate 3 day cleanse. The reason being that this cleanse starts off with a gentle cleanse pack on day 1, a slightly more detoxing pack on day 2 and an advanced cleanse pack on day 3. It helps spacing the cleanse out this way for maximum benefits. 

Which of your 100% Cold-Pressed Juices are great for boosting your immune system and keeping healthy?

Our new Immunity 16oz Cold-Pressed Juice is our best option for boosting your immune system as it has 10 ingredients in which include herbal medicinals and natural boosters. 

What are some of your tips for wellness and keeping healthy?

We definitely believe having a regular juice routine is key to ensuring you get all the nutrients in that you would miss on days that you don’t eat any vegetables or fruits. 

Other than that daily exercise is very important, lots of water and good sleep every night.

Which is your favorite Green2Go product?

Our favorites definitely change but currently we love our juice of the month which is made from locally grown mangoes, apples, ginger and lemon. 

Are your ingredients locally sourced? 

We source locally where we can but because we use such a large variety of produce we are not always able to source them locally in which case we get them from local suppliers. 

In addition to ordering online, where else can your products be purchased? 

Our products are available in our store at 116 Cannon Place, Industrial Park as well as certain retailers such as Bluestone Lane, 7 Mile Strength and Fitness, Bliss Yoga studio, F45 in the Strand, Brussels Sprouts, The Brewhut in the airport and The Westin. 

How does your recycling program work?

We do not use any plastic at all and serve all of our products in glass which we take back from clients and offer a $0.25 per bottle refund on all glass (to be used for same day store purchase.) 

Shop Green2Go

To purchase Green2Go products online our browse their selection, click this link

For more information about Green2Go delivery and their products email 

letstalk@green2go.ky 

Stay connected with Green2Go Instagram & Facebook 

Mr Fox: The Positive Impact A Therapy Dog Makes On The World

There is something truly special about the bond between a person and their dog.  Dogs are man’s best friend for a reason.  Dogs are loyal, compassionate and love unconditionally.  There are so many amazing stories out there about dogs enriching the lives of so many people.  At the end of the day our pets become a significant part of our family.  I am delighted to share with you a little bit about my good friend Alicia Proud’s adorable dog Mr. Fox.  Fox is an incredibly sweet dog that makes a positive impact in the lives of everyone he encounters.  Fox has been trained as a therapy dog and helps provide emotional support for those in need.  

Q&A with Alicia Proud, Meet Mr. Fox.

Is Mr. Fox a rescue?  Please, tell us a bit more about Mr. Fox. 

AP: Yes Foxy is a rescue, we popped into the Cayman Islands Humane Society shortly after arriving home from getting married in 2017 and I saw this little feeble pup in the quarantine section not doing so good. I enquired about him and pretty much insisted he needed to get to the vet pretty quick as he couldn’t even lift his head for more than 10 seconds. It was heartbreaking. He headed to the vets, I went to visit him attached to an IV drip at this point and then fostered him to make sure he started his second chance with a little loving! And that was the end of Fox’ s time at the HS. We call it a ‘Foster Failure.’

What inspired you to get Fox certified as a therapy dog?

AP: I knew Fox was a special loving character as he was always so happy to see people since he was tiny. I use to take him to work with me in the office so he got to socialize a lot, and people often came in to just say hi to Fox and not the people- lol!!  I heard about Healing Paws and thought “Yes” Fox is perfect for this, he was always a cute happy chappy that seemed to make people smile instantly, so sharing his love with everyone seemed easy.

What is a typical day like for Fox when working as a therapy dog?

AP: We aren’t actively working now for obvious reasons but in 2018-2019 we use to visit the Pines residential home and chat to the residents who were open to furry visitors. Lifting their spirits and getting some strokes and licks from our guests. Fox and I also use to work with an individual at NCVO.  The bond between Fox and the client was unbelievable and they were both so happy when they played, chased each other around the grounds, played hide n seek, and learnt new tricks. It was wonderful to see them both grow and connect.

What are some of the special characteristics of dogs that become therapy dogs?

AP: Each therapy dog is different and I would say they bring something unique to each person they are trying to help. But generally, therapy dogs need to be calm, well behaved, open, friendly, and it helps to be cute!

 If someone is interested in getting their dog trained to be a therapy dog what advice would you give them?

AP: I would say reach out to your local organisation or rescue organisation and make inquiries. But also work on your dog’s behaviours at home, teaching your dog not to be scared of objects, loud noises etc and be respectful and friendly to strangers.

Dogs are known to be great for emotional support and comforting people, how would you describe your experience with Fox? 

AP: Dogs are very in tune with human energy they know when you are sad, sick, stressed and happy.  If there is stressed energy in the house you will observe the dogs vanish and take themselves away from the situation. When I am calm, they are calm and will settle by you. Fox especially knows how to hug, it may sound crazy but he sits very still when you want to hug him up, it’s like he knows to just hold you for a moment. He gives out plenty of kisses first thing in the morning and always flicks my hand up so I can stroke him, cheeky!

What are some of the positive benefits of having a dog as a pet?

AP:  Dogs give you a purpose to jump out of bed in the morning and get going with your day with a brisk walk and some fresh air. They make you laugh, cry and fill your heart with happiness. When you have two or more dogs the dynamics are a little different as you see a pack form and it is very interesting to watch the hierarchy between each dog and the humans in the household. There is always a sense of belonging and responsibility when you have dogs in your family as they really do become part of the pack. They’re also a great starter before you choose to have human babies, if you are thinking of starting a family, get a dog first.

What do you love most about your dogs?

AP: I love how much my dogs entertain me and how they are so happy to see me even if I’ve been gone for 5 minutes.  They have taught me to listen and stay more grounded, I am so thankful to have had them with me through covid 19 especially as my husband is away at the moment. They have made me feel safe and protected. I have learned more to tune into their energy as they do mine and feed off each other, it really can change your behavior for the better.

 

Stay Connected with Alicia Proud, click this link to visit her website

 

Photo Credits: Ivor Lee and Alicia Proud

Wanderlust: Take Me To The Ocean!

Many of us might be finding ourselves reminiscing about our past travels or dreaming about the day when we will be able to travel the world again visiting our favorite places or checking destinations off our travel wishlist.  In the meantime, a trip to the beach might be the very ‘travel’ adventure you need.  Living in the Cayman Islands has its privileges.  Being surrounded by alluring turquoise waters with an exquisite underwater world to explore makes the Cayman Islands a true paradise.  You can’t help but want to dive in.  

The experience of lockdown, social distancing, and the global pandemic has given us an opportunity to reflect on life.  Some of us, find ourselves more appreciative than ever for the simple things in life.  Nature has been an incredible outlet for many to find solace, escape the stress or craziness of the day, feel rejuvenated, inspired and a place to find peace to calm one’s mind.  Reconnecting with nature can have a positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing— whether through a walk outside or a swim in the ocean.    

turtle

If you find yourself with an overwhelming feeling of wanderlust, then take a trip to the ocean and immerse yourself in exploring the beauty and rich biodiversity of our marine environment  (practice local safe social distancing and lockdown rules).  For those of us who call the Cayman Islands home we are fortunate to have an incredible 365 dive sites surrounding our islands.  Some of our most iconic dive/snorkel sites are easily accessible such as Devils Grotto, Eden Rock, Soto’s Wall, The Wreck of the Cali, Smith Cove, and Spotts Beach.  Embarking on a snorkeling adventure will satisfy your wanderlust, no matter where you live in the world. Snorkeling gives you a feeling of adventure, an opportunity to explore and discover the beauty of the coral reefs, amazing underwater photo opportunities, and memorable moments when encountering marine life like stingrays, turtles, sharks, schools of fish, spotted eagle rays, and so much more.  Just spending some time in the ocean will feel like a vacation.  After a dip in you will find yourself feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated. We are incredibly lucky to live in paradise.  The ocean is an amazing travel destination.    

Eden Rock Blue Tangs

Eden Rock

Eden Rock

 

Photo Credits: Eco Chic Cayman

Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Happy Earth Day!

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.  Remember we are all connected through nature.  I encourage you to take a moment and appreciate the beauty of nature.  Nature is an incredible life support system and we all depend on a healthy environment.  A simple way we can all celebrate Earth Day is by spending a few minutes outside just walking around our gardens and appreciating all the trees, flowers, wildlife, and the beauty of nature that surrounds our home.  Have you noticed you can hear birds singing in the morning? Do you see more butterflies fluttering around?  Maybe you will discover flowers or wildlife that will brighten your day.  Spending time outdoors and reconnecting with nature, even in your home garden is a great way to clear your mind, reduce stress and anxiety.  Nature has an incredible ability to feed the human soul.    

Right now, it seems like life has hit a reset button, and nature is healing.  This gives us an opportunity to take some time to slow down our busy lives and start appreciating the simple things like the wonders of nature, reflecting on life and writing a list of gratitude. 

With love, xo