Francesca Trotman was born in the UK, and became obsessed with sharks since the age of eight and then incredibly learnt to dive at the age of just thirteen! Francesca is the Managing Director and Founder of the marine conservation organisation, Love The Oceans, based in Mozambique. Their mission is to establish a Marine Protected Area in Jangamo. The project is run from the bottom-up with a community-led approach. Research areas include humpback whales, ocean trash, coral reef, megafauna (whale sharks & manta rays) & fisheries, as well as three outreach projects: teaching basic marine resource management to 10-13yr olds, teaching swimming to 4 – 18yr olds, and developing alternative livelihoods through capacity building workshops. Francesca kindly answered some questions for us on what inspired her choices and the work being done by Love The Oceans.
What inspired you to work in conservation and what steps did you take to reach your current position?
I knew I always wanted to do something involving the oceans at University so I chose Marine Biology as it was an obvious choice and did it at the University of Southampton. I did the integrated Masters course there (four years). At the end of my second year I went on holiday to Mozambique for diving and saw my first shark killing which was very emotional given my attachment to sharks. I soon realised that it was the shark fin industry as a whole I needed to be angry at, not the individuals doing the killing since the education level is so low in the area, the fishermen have no idea about the damage they’re doing.
I went back to uni and found a supervisor who would support me to go back to Mozambique and work out how bad the shark fishing problem is there. I found Ken Collins, who gave me a lecture slot to the year below where I recruited three research assistants to come and spend four months with me and the fishermen over the summer of my 3rd year to collect data for my 4th year (masters) dissertation.
When I was writing up the results for my dissertation back in England they were pretty much what you’d expect in terms of sustainability of shark fishing and the potential negative implications for the local marine ecosystem.
However, my stats weren’t significant because I didn’t have enough data which meant I couldn’t publish my paper or do anything about the fishing going on. I began to look at how financially I could continue my data collection and build a team to help out. I started researching NGOs and the conservation volunteering space and that is where Love The Oceans was born from, I founded it November 2014.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
There are many aspects of my job that I love. We have incredible marine animals where we are so of course I adore having interactions with those – especially humpback whales, they’re really something special here as they come in such huge numbers.
I also love developing new projects and helping develop new opportunities for youngsters in our area. We’re the only charity in this area and it’s very rewarding working with such an open and welcoming community.
What was your proudest moment as a conservationist so far?
We were recently recognised by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as 1 of 15 global grassroots forces for change and we received international recognition for our work. That was something quite special to be recognised for all the hard graft we’ve been putting in over the years. A phone call from Meghan to say how much she loved what we were doing was a bit of a surreal moment.
What gives you hope for the future of conservation?
The youth of today is really proactive and a lot of people choose to live a certain way because they don’t have any options. They’re not bad people. Being able to identify and work to remove obstacles that stand in people’s ways of living a more sustainable life is essential and it’s very rewarding and provides a lot of hope when you see people changing their ways to live more sustainably when given the tools and the knowledge to do so.
What advice would you give to new conservationists trying to build a career?
Be persistent and resilient. You’ll get a lot of set-backs and sometimes it’ll feel like it’s an impossible task you’ve taken on, but just keep going and you’ll eventually get there! Network and make useful connections – they’ll always come in handy!
Why do you think people should care about conservation and the environment?
The oceans are an essential part of life. They provide oxygen, food, money (through tourism), and a recreational playground. So if you like breathing, eating, having fun, you should care about the oceans.
Could you outline what Love The Oceans stands for and what your aims are?
Love the Oceans is a non-profit marine conservation organisation working in Jangamo Bay, Mozambique since 2014. Jangamo, whilst home to a huge host of marine life, has never been studied in depth for any prolonged amount of time. Love The Oceans is working to protect and study the diverse marine life found here, including many species of sharks, rays and the famous humpback whales. We use research, education and diving to drive action towards a more sustainable future. Our ultimate goal is to establish a Marine Protected Area for the Inhambane Province in Mozambique, achieving higher biodiversity whilst protecting endangered species. Our vision is to develop a successful conservation strategy that can be replicated up and down the coastline of Mozambique.
We have developed cutting edge, ethical marine conservation programs that give individuals the chance to get hands on conservation experience, working alongside our marine biologists doing research, community work and diving in Mozambique.
What conservation issues are your organisation dealing with?
Our organisation is a marine conservation organisation based in a poverty-stricken area so we’re working with the community to move towards a more sustainable future, aiming to harness the eco-tourism potential in this district and promote sustainable businesses.
We’re mainly dealing with illegal poaching (sharks, turtles, undersized fish), unsustainable fishing, huge amounts of ocean trash, damaged coral reefs and irresponsible tourism (driving on the beach, bad animal interactions).
How does your organisation interact with the local community?
We work extremely closely with the local community and this partnership is a core value of ours. Our project in Mozambique is part community owned, with the Elders of each community we work in heavily involved in community outreach project development. We have our daily basic resource management lessons working with 10-13yr olds at the schools, we have weekends teaching 4 -18 yr olds swimming, and we’re developing a project at the moment that works with active fishermen, transitioning them over to more sustainable fishing.
What are the organisations biggest achievements?
· Hosted 227 volunteers and students on our site in Mozambique over a 95-week period
· Collected over 1 tonne of trash off the beaches
· Completed 2310 hours of fisheries research
· Taught 851 hours of basic marine resource management to over 1150 10-13 year olds
· Built both schools we work at up to 10 classrooms each to establish the first secondary school
· Taught over 290 hours of swimming lessons to over 800 4-18 year olds
· Qualified the first ever Mozambique citizen STA swimming teacher
· Raised enough money to build a community swimming pool
· Been recognised as 1 of 15 grassroots global #forcesforchange by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
What are the long-term goals for the organisation?
The vision of Love The Oceans is to create a successful, holistic conservation strategy that can be replicated up and down the coastline of Mozambique and other developing nations to alleviate poverty and empower local communities to protect their oceans.
How can people help support your organisation or get involved themselves?
Visit out website and find out more about our volunteering positions: lovetheoceans.org We have:
- Our research programs (2-6 weeks, March – October) – for people who are studying or have studied a related subject at university level or equivalent
- Our Conservation Adventure Programs (3 – 4 weeks, July – August) – for anyone from any background aged 18 or over.
- Our swimming program (2 weeks August) – for swimming teachers looking to help out and teach swimming
- Our photography program (2 weeks July – August) – with Photographers Without Borders for photographers looking to learn from a professional how to use photography as an effective tool in story telling.
- Group opportunities – bespoke packages can be developed if you’re a group of people – school group, scuba divers, SUPers, etc – who’d like to come and join us, just drop us an email.
For more information please check out their amazing website lovetheoceans.org to find out more about the different opportunities. You can adopt a whale shark at https://lovetheoceans.org/adopt/ . Don’t forget to also follow the great work on their Insta and Twitter @lovetheoceans.