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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Undergraduate Marine Biology student sets up Marine Conservation organisation in Mozambique

Published: 7 May 2015

Final year Masters of Marine Biology student Francesca Trotman has a passion for marine conservation and in particular sharks. The sleek predators have intrigued her since childhood. Now she is continuing her lifelong interest by establishing a non-for-profit, marine conservation organisation in Mozambique called ‘Love the Oceans’ which is dedicated to preserving many of the local marine life including sharks from the damaging overfishing.

Francesca Trotman
Francesca Trotman in Mozambique

Through Love the Oceans Francesca recruits volunteers to monitor the fisheries in Guinjata Bay, recording the catches of sharks and rays, teaching children about conservation at the local school and diving to find and log the various species and create a biodiversity log. Francesca then plans to use the results of their research to lobby for change and encourage ecotourism in the area.

“Since whale sharks, tiger sharks, humpback whales, manta rays and dolphins are common in these coastal waters, there is a huge opportunity to increase ecotourism and provide a financial incentive for the fishermen to value the animals alive rather than dead,” she explains. “Local people are uneducated, they’re not dumb, and they are keen to learn more about why their actions could be damaging their environment. For example, we want to encourage and support them to exchange their gill nets that capture everything in their path for more sophisticated fishing equipment.”

Francesca first went out to the country in 2013 on an underwater photography internship. The unspoiled coastline and amazing wildlife caught her imagination but she could hardly fail to notice the threat to the shark population and was inspired to do something to make a difference on her return to the UK. Through her research and engagement with the local community Francesca hopes one day they will achieve a Marine Protected status for the coastal waters of Inhambane Province.

“More and more sharks are being killed to satisfy the demand in China for their fins which are used in traditional medicines and eaten by the privileged,” she explains. “They are an important part of the food chain in the Indian Ocean and their disappearance could threaten the marine ecosystem on the coast.”

Back at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, coastal ecology specialist Dr Ken Collins supported her initiative and encouraged her to write her final year dissertation on the project. He has had first-hand experience of conservation on the Galapagos Islands as part of an early Darwin Initiative project. Francesca delivered a lecture on the subject to second year students and was pleased when three of them wanted to help her with the work. Another visit to Guinjata Bay in summer 2014 crystallised their ideas. Now she heads up the organisation with Oceanography graduate Oscar Dunn and third year marine biologists Pippa Fitch, Chloe Bentley and Zoe Holbrook as part of the team and the 2015 volunteer recruitment programme is well underway.

“Studying at the University of Southampton has given me the knowledge and contacts to set up Love the Oceans and everyone has been very supportive. We are planning to take our first large group of volunteers out this summer, after my dissertation has been handed in. Although many of our new recruits are students, we are keen to hear from anyone over the age of 18 who shares our passion for our beautiful oceans.”


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