Diving, Fishing, Studying, Collecting: Meet the ASC Staff With a Passion for the Oceans
Every June 8 is World Oceans Day, an annual celebration of the oceans and a reminder of just how important it is that we cherish and protect them.
At ASC our mission is to drive up standards in seafood farming to minimise environmental impacts on our oceans, rivers and lakes (among many other things, of course). So it’s no surprise that quite a few colleagues at ASC are particularly passionate about the oceans not just in their day job but in their spare time as well.
So to celebrate this important day we asked a few ASC members of staff from around the world why they love the oceans and what this day means to them. Here are just a few examples…
Duncan Leadbitter is ASC’s Commercial Manager for Australia and New Zealand. He lives on the coast of New South Wales and although he’s not always lived in Australia, he has spent most of his life living near the sea.
“Except for a couple of years living near London I have always lived close to the sea,” said Duncan. “I started fishing with my dad when I was six or seven – we had boats and would mostly fish the sea but sometimes a local saline lake as well.”
For Duncan, a love of the ocean has been a big part of both his personal and professional life. “I started working with the Australian Fisheries Department in 1984 on marine protected areas and habitat protection. After working at an NGO called Ocean Watch I moved on to the MSC in London, before joining ASC in 2013.”
Now you can often find Duncan in the water, either scuba diving with his son or spear fishing – and filming, photographing, and writing about the incredible marine landscape on his doorstep is also a passion.
Performance Data Coordinator Kathrin Steinberg lives about 400m from the North Sea in a small tourist town called Büsum, in the North of Germany.
Kathrin moved to Büsum about five years ago to study for her PhD in Aquaculture Technology at Kiel University’s institute based in the town. She and her husband previously studied marine technology in Bremerhaven, another North Sea coastal town, so they both have long experience of living near, and studying, the ocean.
But Kathrin’s love of the water goes back much further than that. “I have been actively involved with the German lifeguarding association (Deutsche Lebens-Rettungs-Gesellschaft, or DLRG) since I was little,” she said. “My parents were both active lifeguards and I spent so much time at the swimming pool I probably learned to walk there. So water was always important to me and I always knew I wanted to study something related to the ocean.”
As well as volunteering to guard the local beach, Kathrin also teaches kids how to swim and swimmers how to lifeguard. And that’s on top of her day job in ASC’s Standards and Science team where she is helping to drive up standards in aquaculture!
Dennis Wittmann is ASC’s Outreach Manager for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, having previously worked in ASC’s Programme Assurance team. Although he is currently based in Utrecht in The Netherlands, where ASC’s head office is located, he has spent a lot of his life in and around the ocean.
“I worked for a year in Croatia where I taught school classes from Austria about the Mediterranean Sea – things like fish anatomy, ocean habitats, how to take samples, and threats to the ocean environment,” said Dennis.
As well as teaching marine biology to school classes, Dennis is a qualified rescue diver, and has written about such diverse topics as the electric organs of fish, great white sharks, and cartilaginous fishes in the Mediterranean. His fascination with the ocean began at an early stage: “When I was a kid I would collect shells from marine molluscs at the beach and categorise and label them – I had a collection of about 400 samples.”
Geert Robben is another member of ASC’s Standards and Science team who has been fascinated by the oceans since he was a child. “I have loved the ocean ever since I was a young boy catching crabs on the beach in France during low tide,” he said. “When I was backpacking in 2009 I took a diving course in Colombia and I fell in love from my first breath under water.”
Since then Geert has dived in Belize, Bonaire and Egypt. The reason for his love of diving is simple: “Scuba diving is amazing because you enter a world that is different in so many ways that it feels alien.”
For all of the ocean-loving ASC colleagues there is a clear link between their passion and their day job, and Geert described it perfectly: “Because I have seen the beauty of the underwater world I want to help preserve this. Through my work in aquaculture I want to contribute to the protection of endangered habitats like the oceans.”
Well said, Geert! And if you would like to play your part in protection the oceans, as well as rivers and lakes, one easy step is to think about the food you’re buying. ASC certified farms must minimise their impacts on the surrounding environment by limiting chemical usage, preventing escapes, monitoring the sea floor, and much more besides. On top of that they must be socially responsible, meaning they treat and pay their workers fairly and act as good neighbours to local communities. You can help support these responsible farms by looking for the ASC logo next time you’re shopping for seafood.