“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” — Edward Abbey, Burt and Maurine’s favorite quote
Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock are award-winning underwater photographers who specialize in documenting tropical marine life and pioneering remote dive travel destinations. They are veteran dive group leaders who’ve led highly successful trips to remote and sensitive areas such as Sipadan, Komodo Island, the Solomon Islands and Raja Ampat.
Jones describes how it was when they first arrived in the Solomon Islands: “I believe we were the first ones the locals encountered who treated them as equals. The Melanesian people that you find in the Solomon Islands and in Papua in Indonesia have a long established tradition of ownership rights to the environment. They do a pretty good job of self-managing and they have an expectation of how they want to be treated. You just don’t pull a boat up to a reef and jump in the water—you have to negotiate that right to dive that reef.”
“if the locals don’t trust you they’re not going to work with you”
Burt says “You have to have respect for these people and just because we have money and a fancy boat doesn’t mean we have any rights other than those granted to us by the locals. And respecting those rights goes a long way toward getting along and developing trust. Ultimately if the locals don’t trust you they’re not going to work with you and it can make your life a lot more difficult.”
Maurine discusses why underwater photographers need to be sustainable divers: “We normally have experienced divers with excellent diving skills, but there are the exceptions and we can only tolerate so much. Certainly photographers do more damage to a reef than other divers. Photographers get much closer to the reef, therefore, as a photographer you should have exemplary diving skills. And that doesn’t happen. Lots of people get cameras directly out of diving school and when they are looking through the camera, they basically lose their minds. They lose awareness of the reef.
“the photograph is not the most valuable aspect of what they are doing – it is the environment. “
Burt adds: “We talk about it a lot. We talk about it before and at the end of each and every dive. We monitor as best we can diver behavior and if someone is repeatedly doing something wrong, then we take that client aside and explain to them that their photograph is not the most valuable aspect of what they are doing—it is the environment. That is why they are there and they need to have more respect for it. If it continues then we tell the client that they need more help with their buoyancy skills before they can come back on a trip with us. We’ve had to do that a couple of times.”
The local dive operators are often the best to work with because of their intimate knowledge of the reefs and their vested interest in protecting the marine environment by keeping to sustainable practices. “In Raja Ampat, we try to work with boats that are locally owned … We know these people; they are friends and colleagues, relationships we’ve developed over twenty years of bringing groups here.”
Maurine adds that its important to run a sustainable business and a part of that is to promote sustainable travel, “in Raja Ampat, a portion of the marine fees go to benefiting all of the local villagers…Now we are approaching the resorts and dive operators bringing tourists to the Birds Head area to contribute a percentage of what they receive from each tourist and earmark that specifically for Birds Head programs. …. We are trying to insure, that this very profitable destination remains profitable by keeping the reefs in the best shape possible.
“educate the world about Indonesia’s reefs and the urgent need to conserve them”
Since 1992 Burt and Maurine have explored the Indonesian archipelago and recorded underwater images of its spectacular reefs. They have published two popular guidebooks to the world’s richest reefs, Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat and Diving Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape, which have promoted sustainable marine tourism as one way to preserve the regions’ unsurpassed marine life. In 2002 they began working with the Indonesian branches of several NGOs, including Conservation International, to educate the world about Indonesia’s reefs and the urgent need to conserve them.
Their photography has been featured on the covers of more than a dozen of the world’s most prestigious publications, including GEO, BBC Wildlife, Smithsonian, and Natural History. Secret Sea, the first large format collection of their photography, has won several publishing awards including the Benny Award for best photography book. In 2012 Maurine was inducted into the Women’s Diving Hall of Fame and honored for her photojournalism and conservation work. Committed to marine conservation, Burt and Maurine use the art of photography to help preserve life in the sea.
the Coral Triangle is the global epicenter of marine biodiversity,
To learn more about Burt and Maurine’s diving adventures in Raja Ampat and the Coral Triangle an area considered to be the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, listen to their very entertaining interview at Blue Ocean Summit 2014: Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock. To see Burt and Maurine’s wonderful underwater photography visit Secret Sea Visions and if you want to review their books Secret Sea, Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat and Diving Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape and at the same time support the Blue Ocean community, order their books thru the Blue Ocean Store where you can also review our entire directory of underwater books and films.
Another of our experts speaking on the subject of “Honest Talk about Marine Conservation” is Douglas Fenner. Doug began diving in the Caribbean, and described the coral reefs at Cozumel, Mexico, Roatan, Honduras, Cayman Brac, and St. Lucia for the first time, diving which eventually led to his field guidebook to the corals of Hawaii.
Most recently, he worked as a coral reef monitoring ecologist in American Samoa, doing monitoring for nine years. To see all of Doug Fenner’s article “Why Coral Reefs are one of the Most Valuable Ocean Assets” visit him at Ocean Profiles: Douglas Fenner