Diver, Free Diver, Vegan & Marine Scientist
We welcome Ella Haskin to the Akua Oceanwear's family of mermaids! An inspirational and adventure seeking diver and marine scientist from Victoria, Australia. We thought we would sit down with Elle and share with you what inspires her to spend majority of her time below the sea and dedicate her life to preserving our incredible marine environment! Including some little tips on how we can all make simple day to day sustainable choices 🙂
How did you fall in love with the ocean? Is there an exact moment or is it something that has been with you your whole life?
My love for the ocean has certainly been with me my whole life. Since only a few weeks old I have been showed the natural world by my parents (both are avid travellers), and so the outdoors has always been a special place to me. My ocean love in particular started at the age of 3 or 4 in the rock pools of Phillip Island, in Victoria. Dad has put a mask and snorkel on me to give me my first underwater experience. Apparently I initially had some doubts and apparent fear for the water, but luckily dad convinced me into the water. I’ve been told it took him hours to get me out on that first day. I guess that’s where it all started for me. All throughout my childhood, holidays involved camping near beaches and exploring the underwater world. I was first introduced to SCUBA diving (through dad) at around 16, and that has been a huge love of mine ever since. I am constantly in awe, and never get used to what I experience in the ocean. It is so vast, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been exposed to it from such a young age.
Tell us what makes the perfect day of Elle Haskin?
Hmm that’s a hard one. It’s hard to pick between a SCUBA dive and a free dive...
I would probably have to say; a day starting with a big brekkie- and an early conservation SCUBA dive would be perfect for me; perhaps on the Ningaloo reef (Western Australia), or maybe in the Philippines. Conservation diving is a must; whether it be data collection or an underwater clean up, it provides an interesting task to complete in the water, and you are contributing to caring for our wonderful ocean: the world’s source of life!
Then, the morning would be followed by a green curry lunch (from a special little spot I have on the gulf of Thailand- not possible, I know!). Afterwards, an afternoon on a shady beach sounds perfect- possibly combined with a shallow snorkel to wind down. It is a bit of a mix and match in terms of locations! However something along those lines would be the perfect day!
Where in the world have you dived / free dived & where was your favourite?
I have been incredibly fortunate on this one!
I became a qualified SCUBA diver in Thailand whilst completing my first conservation program. I also returned there for 6 months to complete an internship because the program was just too good! I have since dove on the island of Cebu, and Negros, Philippines whilst attending another conservation program- and simultaneously completed my Dive Master training. I have also regularly been diving with my dad back home in Victoria, although it is usually a pretty chilly dive down that way!
Now, free diving! I have been doing this for a while without training, although I highly recommend at least doing level 1 through SSI. I did my level 1 course in Amed, Indonesia. I was completely blown away by the marine life there. It is certainly one of my favourite spots. I then did my level 2 course whilst I completed my conservation internship in Thailand. Overall I have tried it in the Vietnam, Bali, Thailand, the Philippines, the Mornington Peninsula, the Great Barrier reef (Lady Elliot Island Eco resort is a MUST go, and the Ningaloo Reef.
I would have to say that so far, Ningaloo Reef has been my favourite spot. I have been there a couple of times. The waters are full of Manta rays, sharks, nudibranches, other rays, whale sharks, and so many fish and other life. It truly is extraordinary.
What is your favourite marine animal and why?
To be honest, I don’t think I can pick just one!
Manta rays are gentle giants which I have loved swimming with since my teens, during travel in between school and uni breaks. Also, whilst living in Thailand in 2016, I learnt about Nudibranches and honestly, they are so cool! They can take the toxins from their food and utilize it in their own bodies as a defence, one ‘nudi’ has even been thought to utilize chlorophyll from food and actually photosynthesis with it! Plus, with their diverse physical characteristics- they are so interesting to look at.
I have recently fallen so in love with sharks, since coming to coral bay, i should say they are my favourite at the moment. They are such mis-understood animals and the media has really hurt their reputation. Over the past week I have had the opportunity to swim with many tiger sharks and they have completely blown me away. Not for a second did I feel any threat from them while in the water, and GOSH they are so elegant! Thresher sharks have also taken the breath from me. They are uniquely majestic animals, big (in body size and the sheer length of their elongated caudal fin), bold and so beautiful. They nearly look unreal, like they have been animated, with their big eyes and small mouths.
I really do love all marine animals, each can be appreciated in so many unique ways, but- yep probably sharks at the moment *haha*.
How do you think women can make a difference in preserving our marine environment?
Absolutely, women have been so underrepresented in so many fields in our time here on this earth. I am so grateful that this is now changing and we are having the opportunities to make a difference.
We can study hard and know our shit and use our voices. We can really push for change no matter what pace of life we are on. We are nurturing and caring and can show younger generations what needs to be done to care for our ocean, and our future. We can, and are setting the examples.
Also, it’s likely we are probably still seen as somewhat more fragile than men in this big bad world. I think we can use this. Imagine this. A woman swimming with sharks, octopus, rays and more. They are all animals that have been associated with danger, and I think that seeing women advocating for their conservation and wellbeing is such a contrast to what the world has been used to. We are already seeing it, Sylvia Earle is my favourite example. I think she is incredibly inspiring.
Be a badass and care for our planet.
“No water, no life. No blue, no green” – Sylvia Earle
Can you tell us what you do day to day to help reduce your impact? Do you have any achievable tips we can employ into our daily life?
There are already a few lifestyle choices I have made to line my actions with my values. They are quite easy and can be achieved over a short period of time.
The first one was to go vegan. I know, I know, people seem to hate vegans. However all they are doing is living a life that is in line with most people’s values. Most of us claim to be against cruelty to animals, and most people also claim to care about the environment. We slaughter around 60 billion land animals per year, and many more marine animals (many estimates say over 100 billion). Simply killing that amount of life- requires efficiency, and it doesn’t take much to realise that in most cases that efficiency comes with a heavy price on the animals welfare.
Also... Think about the effect that taking over 100 billion lives has on the environment. Animal slaughter produces an unimaginable amount of greenhouse gasses, varying depending on the type of animal being reared, and the style of farming. It also produces a lot of physical waste, being the discarded body parts and blood. Then there is also the land cleared to grow feed for many of these animals, it certainly adds up and has sadly been responsible for an absurd amount of ocean environmental damage. The fishing industry unfortunately been unregulated for most of our history and has had a sad consequence on our oceans. So. Do you have to go vegan? Well, no- although I do highly recommend it for those people who are lucky enough to be able to chose their diet ;). I would say, that if you want to drastically reduce your dietary environmental footprint; to start off by cutting out beef and seafood products. Then see how you go from there! Yay for healthy oceans!
Next! My newest personal project is to cut down (eventually cut out) my single use plastics. Our current way of living including the desire for everything to be efficient, easy and disposable is catastrophic for our ocean. Plastics never biodegrade, they simply break down into micro plastics and eventually end up in the food chain. It is completely unnecessary for us to reply on plastics the way we do! We’ve got to remember that there was a time before plastic, and even though current times make it difficult to avoid- than it can be avoided. It just requires a little bit of passion (and planning!).
I find that: ALWAYS having green bags handy eliminates any need to use a supermarket plastic bag. Taking advantage of supermarkets nuts/fruits/seeds and cereals section, and using paper bags (or reusable cotton) makes breakfast and snacks easy. I also highly recommend checking out ‘The Source Bulk Foods’. It is one of the many chains available that provide COMPLETELT plastic free shopping! They just don’t do fresh produce.
Other little nick-nacks to help our cause include:
- Coffee keep cup
- Glass/metal/bamboo straws
- JARS- oh my goodness, for everything (seriously)
- Tupperware (same same as jars but not the single use kind of plastic)
- Menstrual cup (no need for tampon or pad wrappings ever again)
- Bamboo toothbrushes (from health food shops)
- Always carrying my own bottle of water
- Buying good quality products (avoids more wrapping when replacements are needed)
- Buying second hand
- Repairing, not replacing
- Toothpastes, deodorants and other beauty products (all can be purchased without plastic if you know where to look- OR you can SO easily make it yourself! Homemade deodorant is the bomb.)
- And really asking myself what I NEED versus what I WANT when looking at material products
Bike riding, walking and taking public transport is another healthy thing to do, to do good to our planet <3
Why do you love to take Akua Oceanwear on your ocean odysseys?
I love wearing Akua because it’s snug but comfortable (and does NOT fall off while free diving, MASSIVE win). It also looks amazing- I currently can’t decide which top I like the best!
Honestly though- I love it most because it’s a brand that has a purpose behind it apart from monetary gains. It contributes to marine conservation in Thailand, at a program that I have been a part of myself and I know the work they do is so great and genuine. Akua also constantly demonstrates its love for the ocean, and spreads the word on how much help our blue planet needs.