Francesca-Trotman-Photography_Love-the-Oceans-podcast

Podcast: Francesca Trotman | Love the Oceans

In this Love the Oceans podcast we’re talking to someone whose drive, passion and achievements in a short space of time have just blown me away. Francesca Trotman is the Managing Director and Founder of ‘Love the Oceans’, an organisation seeking to create a marine protected area off the coast of Mozambique.

Fran first visited the area whilst at university and saw firsthand sharks having their fins removed, to be used in the highly priced and unsustainable shark fin soup industry. And this lit a fire in her. She set up Love the Oceans right out of university to tackle the issue of unsustainable marine management of a precious area of ocean, home to numerous sharks, rays and famous humpback whales. Sometimes there are so many whales they can’t even move the boats.

Just six years on, Love the Oceans is helping to transform the lives of local people and wildlife in Jangamo Bay, Mozambique. In the podcast we talk to a Fran about her team’s work to protect and study the diverse marine life found there and also how they’re using a combination of research, education and diving to drive action towards a more sustainable future. We also discuss how people like you can get involved visiting this site and help to protect it. It’s an inspiring story that’s unfolding right before us. As always, enjoy.

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Audio Transcript

Francesca Trotman 

Hi, my name is Francesca Trotman and I am the Founder and Managing Director of an organisation, marine conservation organisation called Love the Oceans.

Nick 

Great. Okay, well let’s talk about Love the Oceans then at the start. You’re a fairly new organisation on the block; on the conservation block if you like. Explain like you know who are you? What are you trying to do?

Francesca Trotman 

So LTO, Love the Oceans (LTO) is a really small organisation. We are very young. We are just going into technically our sixth year but we’ve only really been operating for five years. We are a tiny organisation as well. We have three permanent staff members. So we take some seasonal stuff too. But it’s just the three of us that are constantly kind of working way through the year. Our mission is to establish a marine protected area in Jangamo in Mozambique. Everything we do kind of aims towards that. So we do a heap of different research and community outreach projects. We do fisheries research, humpback whales, coral reefs, ocean trash, whale sharks, and manta rays. We’re just starting our fish tagging project as well. We have two community outreach projects because the marine protected area model that we want to implement is a locally led one. So you have to have a local community with the skill set and abilities to be able to manage a marine protected area successfully. The entire vision of LTO is a sustainable model. So we envisage not having to be in the area anymore and it being by the community, for community. So we teach basic swimming lessons to get more kids in the water and obviously to save lives too and reduce the fear of the ocean in the area because most people can’t swim. And then we also teach basic marine resource management for 10 to 13 year olds, so that’s agreed syllabus with the elders and head teachers in the community but basically supplements the national curriculum around biology and geography primarily obviously, with a focus on marine conservation.

Nick 

Yeah. So this area you’re talking about Jangamo if I got that right in Mozambique, yeah. Why did you choose that location and what’s it like sort of, you know, paint a picture of the perhaps particular marine life as well that you’re focused on trying to conserve down there?

Francesca Trotman 

It’s a bit of luck. So I first went back in 2013 on a photography internship. And while I was there, I saw my first shark killing. So I wanted to find out how bad that shark fin industry because the reason the sharks being killed was for the shark fin industry. I wanted to work out how bad that industry was so I kind of went back there in the following year with some research assistance and then founded the organisation after I’d done my Masters on it, looking at shark fin industry and the depth of it in the area. So I kind of happened upon Jangamo rather than specifically [selecting it] for Love the Oceans. And then we’ve kind of grown as well. Jangamo covers three different bays Guinjata Bay, Coconut and Paindane Bay. They’re three different communities and we work across all three and since they are a 15 kilometer stretch of coastline.

Nick 

What’s the marine life like? I’m assuming it’s particularly special or unique in some way for you to be out there you know, seeking to protect it.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah. So where we’re based in Mozambique is really, really beautiful. The tourism industry is very underdeveloped so there’s not a whole heap of tourism. But you’ve got beautiful beaches. They’re like classic white sands of Africa. And then you’ve got like whale sharks and humpback whales and manta rays are probably the three flagship species, like the most popular. We’ve obviously got a heap of other really cool animals like Nudibranchs and heaps of different species of Nudibranchs but no one seems quite as interested in those creatures.

Nick 

Yeah, those are like little colorful slugs you find in the sea. That’s a terrible description but yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

They are really gorgeous. We’re actually potentially opening a project on them next year but yeah, we have humpback whales during June to November time. And there are so many whales that you like, it’s genuinely difficult to move the boat in the mornings and get out to a dive site because there’s just whales sleeping everywhere and you never know where they’re going to pop up. Yes, it’s really busy with whale activity. So we do a lot of whale research and that’s probably our main focus of the mega fauna species just purely because of the high populations in the areas, it’s pretty easy. We do population counts and ID counts on whale sharks and manta rays too. Manta rays are probably the least common in the area and then we have whale sharks, which will really sporadic and will just pop up whenever. We never have any idea when or where they’re going to be. They appear about once a month.

Nick 

Right

Francesca Trotman 

But we do photo IDs on them to get population counts in the area and then we work with another organisation to look at migration patterns for the local region.

Nick 

Right. Okay. And we talked so some of the threats then to these species, shark fining’s one and that’s for presumably shark fin soup, is it?

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah, so it’s actually a kind of dual within the elasmobranch space for fisheries. We’re looking at shark fining which is obviously terrible, horrific, but now the shark population’s kind of crashing and this is kind of a global issue as well, with 100 million sharks being fished a year for the fin industry. You can’t keep up with that. So basically, what you have is the shark fishermen who know, well can’t get many sharks anymore so they are now moving into the gill rake trade, which is usually Mobula Rays. The gill rake is of the Mobula Rays, again used for Chinese medicine kind of basically crushed up. The thought process behind it being that because gills filter water and like help you, well, help Mobulas feed, the gill rakers will filter your blood if you eat them, which is obviously not how science works at all.

Nick 

Yeah. 

Francesca Trotman 

But that’s the kind of ancient thoughts behind that. So that’s now becoming a popular product.

Nick 

Are we talking manta rays and species like that?

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah so manta rays, any kind of mobulas, so gill rakers, devil rays as well are quite popular. So we’ve got those kinds of fisheries going on the area and we have a targeted shark fisheries specifically for that, long line that goes out for them. When I say we, I mean the local population, fishermen, not Love the Oceans obviously.

Nick 

You’re part of the community right.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah and then we also have like just general, there’s a massive lack of education in the area, hence the education projects. There’s a big problem with people not knowing what they’re doing or why it’s bad. So the shark fishermen are not bad people. They’re just people trying to feed their families and they don’t have any kind of education. Most people leave school around the age of 12 or 13 in our area. They don’t have any kind of education around like sustainability or anything like that. And they’ve just grown up killing sharks so why would they change their ways which is part of the problem that we’re trying to combat with the education sector section of what we do.

Nick 

How significant an income is a shark fin, for instance, you know, to an individual in one of your communities? Is it you know, a day’s wage for a fin or you know, can you put a price tag or anything?

Francesca Trotman 

More than that really. Scalloped hammerheads are one of the most popular species for the shark fin trade and that is also the most common species caught in our area. The fishermen are obviously paid a tiny, tiny portion of what that fin would go for on the Hong Kong market. This is the thing, so each freshman will give you a different number depending on who you speak to. And the money is split in different ways depending on whether you’re speaking to the chief or the people that have actually been on the boat or people who have shares in that boat because it’s kind of like 16 people will own one boat but they’ll rotate around who actually goes out on that boat and who pulls the sharks in and then you’ll have also the chief taking the bigger cut as well. And you can get about five kgs of fins from one shark depending on obviously the shark size, and per kg it’s a couple of thousand metical, which for us isn’t a lot. That’s you’d be looking at around 20 to 30 pounds, so not a lot for us. But given that the average wage in Mozambique is currently 230 metical, which is around three pounds; three pounds per person per day.

Nick 

Per day, right. It’s equivalent of something like 10 days work.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah, in one catch. So you can imagine doing that every day and making quite a bit more money.

Nick 

Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

And also there’s an unemployment rate of 70% in our area so most people don’t even earn that when we’re talking about minimum wage. That’s this small percentage of people that actually have a job and are employed. Everyone else unfortunately has to rely on subsistence farming a lot of the time or fishing. So some of our work as well is about creating employment and giving people skills which will enable employment and enable them to make their own businesses.

Nick 

Yeah. So what would be the alternative livelihoods then you know, if shark fins and other products are worth so much to them on a day to day basis and they’re there, although they’ve been depleted in the going down but they’re kind of readily available in the ocean you know, what are the alternatives you know, that you can kind of help to you know, provide an alternative income stream for them?

Francesca Trotman 

So there’s a range of projects that we’re trying to get off the ground at the moment. Obviously, one of the biggest streams of income in this area, especially with the establishment of the protected area that we’re working on, it will be marine ecotourism.

Nick 

Right

Francesca Trotman 

But to be able to partake in that you obviously are going to need to swim hence, our swimming initiative.

Nick 

Right

Francesca Trotman 

Because over about 95% of people in our area don’t swim, can’t swim.

Nick 

Which is always shocking for a coastal community.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah but we have strong riptides and there’s been thirteen drownings in the last two years in just one of the bays. Part of what we teach in the schools is about safety and making sure that people know what riptides are and how to get out of them. And then the practical side of that is obviously actually learning how to swim on the weekends. We’re the only NGO working in the area. So we teach swimming and we try and basically try and erase barriers that could stand in people’s ways. We have our swimming lessons which we do every weekend. So we give the kids the opportunity to become what we call an ocean conservation champion, an OCC and that basically entails us sponsoring them English lessons, English qualifications, swimming qualifications, diving qualifications, surfing, marine ecotourism based qualifications as well as like up skilling English lessons and things like that which will enable them to work within the tourism industry. That enables them to get a job whether that be with us or with other organisations or starting their own organisation. But it enables them to work with tourists, which is generally where the money will lay with job creation. And then in return for that, well obviously it’s great that they can get a job and earn an income with poverty alleviation comes successful conservation strategies because people have the headspace to think about conservation. But also they become ambassadors in their local community for conservation so they can deliver their own conservation workshops, they can help develop materials, they can talk about conservation and kind of implement it in their local community. And the example that I use is we, I kind of did this without realizing with Pascal, who is our Community Outreach Manager. When we first started working together, we just kind of talked about conservation and sustainability and they were concepts that he’d never heard of before. And we talked about fishing and sustainable fishing and what that meant and what that looked like and then he went home and he spoke to his family and he changed the way he fished and his family asked why he was changing the way he was fishing. And he explained about conservation sustainability and our conversation. This was maybe like a couple of hours of conversation, nothing major, no major investments or anything like that. And his family changed the way that they fished as a result of that conversation and he has 700 cousins. I’m not exaggerating. The average family size is between 10 and 20 kids. Pascal is one of 20. So he’s got heaps of cousins and you’re making a humongous difference to a community just through investing in one individual, which is the thought process that we take with the ocean conservation champions, investing in a few and they become kind of super trainers for the community. 

Nick 

Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

So we have like a whole OCC program and that links into swimming projects that we do but we also have a few other alternative livelihood programs. So we have a volunteer equipment exchange initiative program, which is basically when the fishermen come and swap their unsustainable fishing methods free of charge for more sustainable fishing methods. So that’s things like swapping gill nets for spear fishing equipment, which is obviously much more selective and you reduce by catch significantly, entirely with spear fishing. We also have a bee initiative which we’re trying to get off the ground at the moment, which is sustainable honey harvesting and the products that come along with that so, beeswax and things like that. There’s already a honey project a couple of hours north of us so we know that it’s feasible in the area. And then we also have an Aquaponics project, which we’re launching very soon. Essentially, it’s like a sustainable farming unit which will supplement food income, so protein for the family, but also goes to trade at market. So you have a tub of fish and a tub of like a bench bed. You have water going in one layer. It’s a circuit so it all links together. So you have the water going into the fish tank and the fish poop and soil that water and that water is nutrient rich and goes into the veg bed, the veg takes up that soiled water and re-oxygenates it and then it goes back into the fish tank. So it’s a sustainable unit with the only input needing fish food. And you can harvest the veg and you can harvest the fish as well. So things like that supplement income as well. And we hope that because we are obviously aware that the shark fin industry is lucrative and it’s the short term gain that people struggle to say no to because you’re working in poverty stricken area and a monetary incentive is always a massive incentive. So you can’t just tell people they can’t fish anymore because they will, they’ll continue to do it. You’ve got to provide them with alternate sources of income, monetary incentives for working in a different way. But also the education around why shark fishing is unsustainable and other types of fishing are unsustainable and the hope is that people, which we have seen already, are transitioning away from unsustainable fishing methods and fishing practices like shark long lining and gill netting to more sustainable fishing practices with alternate sources of income to supplement their income.

Nick 

Yeah. Wow. Fantastic. So it seems like a key word that I’ve heard loads of times is sustainability. Yeah. You’re not anti-fishing. You know, in fact, you’re promoting spear fishing as a sustainable method of fishing. So is that what it’s all about? It’s all about sustainability to fishing ecosystem that’ll provide for them and future generations. 

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah, you can’t, you can’t say no to all fishing in a poverty stricken, well, country. Mozambique is because one of the poorest countries in Africa that’s coastal. It’s got 2,705 kilometers of coastline. You can’t tell people that they can’t fish especially when foreign entities are fishing in those waters and are responsible for a lot of the fish stocks crashing. So industrial fishing goes on all the time. But also in some of the like, the poorest countries in Africa and in the world are landlocked. The sea offers a resource that can be utilized just sustainably. And as long as it is done sustainably, that’s fine. And the human, the humans will benefit, and the local marine ecosystem will be fine as well.

Nick 

Yeah. And so what’s the outlook for this marine protected area that you’re seeking to establish? I mean, ultimately, you don’t want to be there, right? You want a system that is kind of self sustaining? So this is not about putting it into a time or a day but is it a five, 10, 20, 50 year target, roughly how long do you think it would take to achieve such a big goal?

Francesca Trotman 

Well, we’re hoping within the next five years, we have a 10 year strategy. But I mean, we’re really positive that we’re moving very quickly. And our growth has been crazy huge every year since we started. We’re very lucky. We have a very dedicated team of individuals who are all really passionate. I think because we’re a young organisation we have the space and capacity to snowball new ideas and change ways that we function and come up with new ideas and new projects and see how feasible it is and build around possible new projects. So there’s always kind of new things happening that pop up. And we weren’t, we didn’t see that, we didn’t think they were going to happen but we’ve kind of built stuff around that, which is pretty exciting and it’s also really nice I think for new people like our seasonal staff that come into the organisation because nothing’s silly, like you can put anything on the table. And as long as you’ve got some kind of like thought process behind it then we’re all willing to listen. And I think that really helps to be agile, it really helps rapid growth.

Nick 

Yeah, absolutely. I was just reflecting also from most conservation careers, two of our values are agile and openness you know, it’s about moving fast and being open to people, ideas. So yeah, really, everybody supports where you are and where you’re going. Yeah, it really kind of resonates with us too.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah.

Nick 

So how do you fund that, if you don’t mind me asking then? So what’s the funding model? Are you are you a charity? Are you a social enterprise? You know, how are you seeking to grow and expand?

Francesca Trotman 

So we actually have two registrations, well, it’s three registrations actually but two main ones. So we registered in Mozambique and we’re registered in the UK. We operate primarily out of the UK just because health and safety is better here and quite frankly the currency is more reliable. Metical is lovely but inflammation rates not feasible for business. So what we do is we have Love the Oceans and we have a charity Love the Oceans Conservation. And Love the Oceans is where we run our expeditions through, so we take volunteers and interns and field assistants, all out to Mozambique and they help us with all of our research and that’s really like the kind of really important inner workings of the organisation because our research, our researchers, our volunteers, our field assistants, they are the ones who are collecting, actively collecting the data that is being published and used to lobby the government for legislation change and for the establishment of the marine protected area. So that’s an integral part of what we do, hosting volunteers.

Nick 

Sounds like that’s the evidence base really?

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah.

Nick 

Volunteers, interns to achieve that.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah and then we also have our charity, Love the Oceans Conservation, which is a registered charity. So our Love the Oceans is a nonprofit and it functions as a nonprofit and then you have Love the Oceans Conservation, which is a charity. Love the Oceans Conservation is purely funded by donations so we don’t do any kind of like taking people abroad with Love the Oceans Conservation. It is all donation based and sponsorship based, so corporate donations and individuals and then 100% of Love the Oceans Conservation income is spent on community projects and science projects. A large portion of Love the Oceans is as well. But Love the Oceans Conservation a 100% is. The reason for the difference is that there’s a lot of funding and opportunities out there for charities that just aren’t there for nonprofits and so the registration makes a difference there. Also you can’t pay your trustees as a charity so and whilst I would love to be like say that I never need money and that I can work for free all the time, you have to be able to eat.

Nick 

Yeah

Francesca Trotman 

Pay your rent and be realistic with life. So I need to earn an income and I can’t do that through a charity and same with our other stuff. So, well as a trustee.

Nick 

Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

So we have to have Love the Oceans in existence too.

Nick 

Yeah, so the two sides to it which kind of work and support one another. Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah, most of our organisations and similar organisations in the industry do…

Nick 

Yeah so I’m thinking Blue Ventures are quite similar also, right?

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah, Blue Ventures, Operation Wallacea, a few different other ones.

Nick 

Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

Do some other stuff and BV is probably Blue Ventures is probably the most similar in terms of holistic approaches and community work as well.

Nick 

Yeah. Fantastic. And you mentioned there also about you know, people can actually get involved. So tell us a little bit about the internships or volunteer opportunities. What sort of things could people come and do with you if you’re interested?

Francesca Trotman 

So we have opportunities for everyone. Our youngest volunteer last year was 16 and our oldest was 67 and there are opportunities for everyone. Our kind of main programs I would say are university ones. So we have our research program, our five week research program and that’s open to people who are studying related subjects or have studied a related subject at university level. So that can be you know, biology, marine biology, zoology, environmental science, geography, that kind of thing. They join us for five weeks and collect data. They can also use that data for their dissertation. So, some of them are doing their masters or their bachelors with us as well, a couple of PhDs. And then we also have our Conservation Adventure Program, which is a three week program and that is generally popular with people who are looking at career changes. The average age for that is actually 37.

Nick 

In what sort of backgrounds are these people? What sort of things they are doing right now?

Francesca Trotman 

Huge range, so we’ve had engineers, we’ve had bakers, we’ve had corporate, people with, who have worked in the corporate world in like the oil and gas industry or have given up their role and want to move over. We’ve had software engineers, we’ve had physicists, and we had an astrophysicist.

Nick 

Okay.

Francesca Trotman 

We also partnered with another swimming charity. So our swim partner basically brings out swimming instructors to help with our intensive swimming lessons that happen in the winter holidays of the schools in the area because we teach them every weekend anyways and then we run an intensive two week course, which for the limited number of instructors we have is a bit tricky at the moment. We are qualifying some of the kids as instructors to help out but until then we need more people to come and teach swimming just for that kind of couple of weeks. So we take photographers, we take swim instructors, we take marine biologists, we take bakers, we take engineers, we take anyone. We do have a couple of people who have just finished school and are looking into getting experience as well because essentially what that program is, is a crash course in marine biology.

Nick 

Right

Francesca Trotman 

It teaches you how to present and we do a little bit of that with our five week volunteers as well because a lot of them have already done their first year of uni, they’ve got some experience with presenting science. But with the three weeker, it’s designed to kind of give you a base knowledge of everything you need to know if you’re going to work in field marine biology. So we teach people how to communicate science because there’s a big gap between science being done and then the public understanding, what is being done and what are the outcomes. So we teach people how to present science, we teach all about the different research areas, everything that we work in all of our programs cover everything. So you learn a heap of different stuff in a very short amount of time. And the three week program, they also learn to dive while they’re with us and that’s obviously useful for the coral reef surveys. And yeah, they learn like a heap of different stuff, cultural as well, basics basically workshop in marine biology. The Conservation Adventure Program is kind of for people without marine biology backgrounds. And then the two and the five week research programs are for people that are studying a related subject at university. We also partner with a heap of different universities. So like Newcastle University and Liverpool all have partnerships with us where their students join us for placements on those programs because it’s real academic backing to what we do as well. We have a research project running at the moment with Leeds University too. Then what we’ve started doing, which is quite exciting, we only started last year is specialist expeditions so that’s basically for anyone who is a group of people, groups coming out to us, and that is schools. And so we’ve hosted some under eighteens through school trips. And then we’ve also got a photography program where people come and usually it’s not actually learning how to take photographs, but it’s learning from professionals how to tell a story using photographs and that’s run by our partners, photographers without borders and that’s usually a National Geographic photographer. Really, really great.

Nick 

Yeah. Astrophysicists too wow. You’ve got it all going on.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah we’ve got a lot going on.

Nick 

There is a lot going on. I’m overwhelmed and impressed to be honest like where has your sort of drive and passion for this work comes from you know, what can you sort of, yeah do you kind of know where the seeds of your kind of passion for conservation first started?

Francesca Trotman 

When I was eight years old, my mom took me to the London Aquarium and I was pressed up against the shark tank like a weird little kid.

Nick 

Nothing weird about that it’s all right.

Francesca Trotman 

Actually my yearbook from when I left school literally says what will Francesca be doing in five years time? And it says giving a voice in society.

Nick 

Wow. They got it right.

Francesca Trotman 

So yeah, I went to the London aquarium for my birthday and the guy who was cleaning the tank picked up one of the teeth from the floor because sharks shed their teeth and I kept it in a box for like five years. That was good indicator. But basically I learnt to dive when I was thirteen and that was a big kind of push in the marine bio direction. And then when I came to uni, I didn’t really read much about the course I just knew that marine biology was underwater so I did that. In terms of LTO, I’m really blessed to have a great team that is really amazing like Pascal and Andrea, I can’t ask for two better people to work with. They’re extremely motivating and incredible people and are just basically up for anything so everyone kind of snowballs ideas all the time. It’s a dual thing that keeps all of us motivated. It’s being out in Mozambique and seeing the incredible animals is really like you never get over. When a whale breaches right next to you just it’s like amazing every time you don’t suddenly go, well, I’m not that bothered anymore.

Nick 

Just the one

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah, so it’s partly like seeing the amazing animals and being in the environment, partly working with the community and knowing the people that we work with because we are so grassroots. There’s never any disconnect within the organisation. It’s very fluid and we know who we’re working with at all times, which is really important anyways for an organisation. But for us it means that like the kids with swimming, whenever we like post our photos online, like all of our stuff, we know exactly which kids they are in the photos and we know their parents, we know their families, we know their background, and we know if they’ve got any like problems or like their siblings or whatever. We know everything about them and that also keeps you motivated because you can think about what kind of a future you can give those kids. One of the campaigns we’re getting off the ground in the next couple of years will be a period poverty one linked to our swimming lessons because the girls are coming to less swimming lessons than the boys because the girls start their periods and in most a lot of kids stop going to school when they start their periods, which means the girls stop, well stop going to school for like 12 weeks of the year, which is significantly less education than the boys. Also when they start their periods obviously, that’s the sign of becoming a woman so they get married very young as well. So getting married around the ages of 14 and 15 isn’t unusual in the community. So we’re trying to start a, what we’re hoping, start a period poverty campaign in the next couple of years and with that kind of thing, like I know the kids that I work with and I know which kids we can select for the kind of starting out with that and their parents and how open they are to that kind of thing and I can envisage a future that I would want for specific children that I work with and that’s very motivating, knowing that, like, if you don’t do it, no one else is going to do it. Because we’re in an extremely rural location, it’s not like there’s five other organisations that are doing this. There’s no humanitarian organisation, there’s no other marine organisations, there’s no any kind of like hospital, medical, anything like that. There’s nothing in our area. We’re the only charity working in Jangamo so I think it’s very motivating knowing that you can’t stop because that entire community will suffer if you do.

Nick 

Yeah. Do you have ambition to work outside of Jangamo to you know, spread out into other areas in the future?

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah, kind of we’ll probably always stay within Mozambique but we are designing a conservation model that we want to be able to be replicated up and down the coastline of less economically developed countries in places with very similar problems, just like Tanzania. So we could maybe think about expansion. But to be honest, one of the reasons that Love the Oceans works in Jangamo is because the area is so representative of the entire coastline. It’s very kind of normal in terms of like the problems that they face and the issues and barriers that can stand in the way of living a more conservation minded life.

Nick 

Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

So like that’s why we like working where we do and that’s what means that can be replicated up and down the coastline and there are loads other communities. We’ve already been approached by other communities to ask, they’ve asked us for help to expand what we’re doing. But with the resources that we have, read money, we can’t actually do much more than we currently are. We’re already kind of working right at full power and kind of exhausting our current resources. So until we kind of secure either a large amount of funding or can expand in some other way, then we are limited to just Jangamo. And to be honest, I would never want to just up and leave without like the establishment in marine touched area or anything like that. We have such a specific mission and point that we need to get to before we can even kind of think about expansion.

Nick 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It sounds like a) you’ve got loads going on, but b) its going to continue going for some time. Yeah and it’s exciting time for you and hopefully, it’s an exciting time for the communities too.

Francesca Trotman 

Well I think that’s actually coming kind of rounding it back to the listeners of this podcast and what they might be thinking in terms of like looking for other organisations to work with. I think it’s really important that they do have long term goals. If you’re going out there to help, your help is going to be helping for a long time and they are adding to a bigger mission and it’s not just very, very temporary. So I think yeah, having some long term mission is really, really important.

Nick 

Yeah and actually you and I, we did a webinar earlier in the week where we talked about marine career specifically and you shared your advice as with two other panelists as well about the different roles in the Marine Conservation sector, different routes in and it was a really good, insightful discussion actually and if people listen to the podcast, want to go and watch and listen to that again, that’s on the website. I highly recommend it. But one thing we touched on there, which would be interesting such on here again, that you just mentioned as well, like you know is, getting experience you know, and kind of testing out different careers and one way of doing that is through expeditions, internships, volunteer ships, there’s loads of opportunities out there nowadays. And it’s overwhelming and can be bewildering to actually choose you know, the good ones from the bad. Let’s put it that way, actually. So, you know, one thing you mentioned in there is you know, it’s worth seeing what the long term goals, what you’re working towards what you’re contributing towards and what are the other things that people should bear in mind when they’re kind of trying to choose an opportunity? Are there sort of things that you know people or questions people should be asking you know, of organisations like yourself?

Francesca Trotman 

Definitely, I think for us there are three major things that stand out for us when we look at other organisations and ourselves and where we are and how we can improve. There is the financial aspect, there is the health and safety aspect and there is the ethics aspect.

Nick 

Right

Francesca Trotman 

So in terms of finances, knowing where your money is going is really important. So the organisation should be able to provide you with a breakdown. We actually have ours publicly available on the website. So people don’t even have to email they can just be nosy and click on it. But having a breakdown is clear and allows you to understand exactly where your money’s going is really important.

Nick 

And where shouldn’t it go and where should it go?

Francesca Trotman 

When I was younger, when I first started the organisation, I was kind of really proud to be like, oh, yeah, none of the staff were paid. But as I matured and as the organisation grew, I realized that that’s a really stupid thing to be proud of because to be financially sustainable, you have to pay your staff. And the organisation cannot do all the great work they do unless you pay your staff. So it’s perfectly fine if some of your volunteering fee is going to paying staff. Currently ours only a tiny bit does. I would love to be paid more but right now with the finances, it all goes back into the organisation. But so some of your fee, you can expect it to go to paying salary and that is A- okay. But most of it should be covering your expenses. So if you’re doing a diving expedition, it’s worth keeping in mind that diving is really expensive so that expedition should be more expensive than another one that has no diving in it. If you’re paying through the nose and you’re not doing any diving, that’s a little bit questionable. So, yeah, checking where your money’s going. Most of it should be going towards your lodging, your accommodation, your food, make sure all of that kind of stuff is included. Also, you can expect some of your fee to go to insurance and administration. Any organisation that is a UK organisation working abroad will have to have insurance. And any organisation registered anywhere will have insurance and that’s to cover both their staff but also you as well. Some of the fee can go on transport costs. So for us, we live by the ocean so our cars take a real hammering. Actually a huge amount of money is spent on the cars, which really sucks. But unfortunately, that is life. Some of that money goes on fuel as well and getting people around in the area is obviously really important. So you can expect kind of like a few different areas for your money to be going to. And another thing to be looking at when you’re paying to go abroad is also to look at the financial security of the company that you’re going with too. This wasn’t really something that I’d thought about until we actually got it ourselves. But a lot of organisations should have financial protection. So that means that if they, so if a volunteer pays us and we go bust, which god forbid shouldn’t have happened, but if it did and we go bust, then they get their money back and that’s really important because there are lots of different organisations out there and the financial landscape is happening, is changing all the time so make sure that your money is safe and you are safe and you’re not going to be faced with two weeks before you depart, oh, yeah, you can’t come anymore and we’re not going to give you money back.

Nick 

Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

So finance wise, it’s really important to get that. Health and safety wise you’ve got legislation in the UK called BS 8848 and that is British Standards. It’s a set of health and safety for going abroad for UK organisations. It’s quite dry. You don’t need to read it all. But just making sure that the organisation has either abides by BS 8848 or has some risk assessments done on what you’re doing and an emergency evacuation procedure in place is really important, especially for rural areas like ours and med-evacs can be really difficult to organise. So making sure they got a solid one in place and making sure that they risk assessed activities means that you won’t be doing anything that’s really stupid and that you’re likely to get injured doing. So yeah, health and safety even though it’s boring, definitely make sure that they’ve got that.

Nick 

It’s important. Yeah. And then there was ethics as well.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah, ethics is the last one. So the thing is, is that there are laws in the UK around finances and health and safety. But with ethics, there’s nothing and it’s actually really difficult to find stuff online. We’ve got some information on our website about ethical volunteering and what that looks like and then we also give out flyers at events and stuff about volunteering abroad and how to do that ethically and make sure that your vision aligns with the organisation’s vision. I’ve actually got a flyer here, so I’m just going to read out a couple of things I’ve got on here. So the do’s- do ask for a breakdown of cost. Do ask of evidence of previous volunteers making a difference. Do ask to speak to previous volunteers. Do ask what is expected of volunteers. Do ask if the organisation is working with the community, how they’re working with the community and their long-term vision. So a little bit about what we spoke about already.

Nick 

Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

You need to also ask yourself, would you still do it if you didn’t have a camera? That’s a really important one, especially with Instagram being such a big thing these days.

Nick 

Right, yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

And you also need to ask the organisation why they exist and like Sam said in the webinar, making sure that the organisation doesn’t just exist for the volunteers but the volunteers help the organisation.

Nick 

Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

And then the don’ts- don’t elephant ride, no captive animals. So often animals are drugged or their teeth are removed so that you can play with them. And ultimately, when you’re looking at rehabilitation projects, and a lot of people look at rehabilitation projects, there are stages to rehabilitation and you absolutely cannot have human interaction with an animal that is being rehabilitated because the whole point is that they’re released into the wild and humans aren’t part of the wild and if they’re coming into contact with humans, it will make them vulnerable to poaching. So any place that is claiming, which believe me there are plenty of places claiming it. Any place that claims that they are a rehabilitation centre but you can go in and pet animals, that is not a rehabilitation centre. And if you look up their registration, most of the time, they’ll be profit-making entities too which it sounds really dark but unfortunately, that is a whole section that people need to be aware of. If you’re working with kids and then you need to make sure that they’re going to ask you for a criminal record check. That’s because if you are over 18 and you’re going abroad, and you could be anyone and going to work with under 18 means going to work with vulnerable children. If they’re not asking you for a criminal record check, they do not care about the welfare of the children that they’re working with. You need to make sure that they are checking your criminal record. And if they’re not, you can first of all point out to them that they should have but also, that’s a major, major, major red flag for that organisation.

Nick 

Yeah.

Francesca Trotman 

And then the last thing is, we say no building work. And that’s because we what we do, we do increase, we’ve been working to increase the number of classrooms at schools, but we specifically employ local builders to do that. And we don’t believe in our volunteers doing that, first of all, they’re not qualified in construction, or at least we haven’t had any volunteers yet that are qualified in construction. So we don’t want rubbish classrooms being built that fall down in six years. But also that is a job that a local person can do. And there are building teams in the area that can do that. And we are in an area that is so poverty-stricken, with such a lack of employment, it’s really important that as much money as possible is invested into local area and employment is a really important part of that. So we would rather employ a local team and our volunteers just do any work that can’t be done by the local team. So that’s things like educational murals because the illiteracy rate is so high in our area that our volunteers need to do those educational murals. But the actual construction work is done by the builders and we kind of have a no building work stance on things.

Nick 

Well, okay, great and if presuming is this available online? Can we point people towards information if they want to find out more?

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah, so they can go on our website, just lovetheoceans.org and then there is a page on ethical volunteering. It’s actually called our commitment to ethical volunteering.

Nick 

Right. Okay we will provide a link to that as well in the notes. Fantastic.

Francesca Trotman 

Yeah.

Nick 

Well, it’s been fantastic talking to you and hearing about your story so far, and I can’t believe how far you’ve come in such a short space of time. If people want to find out a bit more about Love the Oceans, want to get involved, where should we point them?

Francesca Trotman 

You can visit our website, lovetheoceans.org, you can go on our Instagram, which is just @lovetheoceans, our twitter is the same and our Facebook page is Love the Oceans too.

Nick 

Fab. Okay and we’ll link to all of them in the notes too. Thank you again, nice to chat and we wish you all the best for the future.

Francesca Trotman 

Thanks Nick.

Nick 

Okay, well I hope you enjoyed that everyone. If you did, then please do hit that subscribe button to get notified when new episodes are live and also give us a rating as it really helps us to get in front of more people. If you enjoy the interviews, we’ve collated the best advice from over 400 professional conservationists into a free eBook, which you can download from the bottom of our website. And finally, if you’ve got any questions or suggestions for the podcast, please tweet them to @ConservCareers. We’d love to hear from you. Okay, till next time, guys, this is Nick signing out.

 

Main image credit: Francesca Trotman Photography.

Careers Advice, Podcast

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