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Feature Image by: Caragh Fraser

Caragh Fraser on Project Hiu

For the last few years I have used photography and videography to tell some incredible stories, however none with such great importance as the story of Madison Stewart and her charity; Project Hiu.

Project Hiu is a not for profit initiative based in Lombok, Indonesia which provides alternative employment to shark fishermen. Indonesia is the world’s largest shark catching nation, the market that Project Hiu operates out of is one of the largest markets in the country. It is important to note that in this industry, the victims are not only the sharks themselves, but the men that fish them. These men live with no options, on a tiny island off the coast that doesn’t have roads, rubbish bins, or even toilets in the small school building. There is no corner store to get a job at. Without proper education, many can only provide for their families by going to sea for two weeks; an extremely dangerous task, to catch sharks that put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. There are several problems with this model that Project Hiu aims to replace. The first being that 95% of all sharks have been fished out. There is a quote from a shark fisherman that describes this in the least scientific, but impactful way; “we go home from fishing when we run out of cigarettes, or when the boat is full of sharks. These days, we always run out of cigarettes first.” The second issue is that the fishermen are risking their lives for such a small amount of money that the poverty cycle is virtually unbreakable.

Madison founded an eco-tourism model which replaces the use of boats for fishing, using them now to take tourists diving, surfing, island hopping and learning about conservation. During it’s time Project Hiu has saved about 100,000 fins from going to market; supported the local community with employing English teachers to give the next generation options outside of the small island, filtered one million litres of water and cleaned up countless kilos of trash from surrounding islands.

Since March of 2019 tourism in Indonesia has been shut down. This has meant we haven’t been able to work or run trips on the ground. So 14 months after Madison and I left; we returned in June to rework our model and continue to provide options to this endless cycle of oppression and needless slaughter of sharks.

I have now been here for four months, supporting Madison’s mission and raising awareness of the brutal truth that is the shark fin trade. Storytelling in digital media is powerful, and using my camera to drive this change has been something I have always hungered for. My background is in studying Marine Science, however my heart lies in conservation.

Canon and their team creates the cameras that allow us to tell our story. You may not think that being a photographer could translate to saving tens of thousands of shark fins from going to market; but when you decide that you will use whatever talents you have at your disposal to drive positive change your talents become a powerful tool to improve the world. That said; creating the best stories means using the best gear. We shoot in high intensity environments; underwater, night time, motion, stills etc., where things are happening quickly and parameters like lighting are changing at the drop of a hat. Our camera of choice is the Canon 1DX Mark II and Canon 1DX Mark III; the autofocus, performance in low light, speed of still photography and compatibility with other film crews we work with means we can create some incredible pieces of content to drive awareness. My absolute go to lens is of course the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II; the focal length is spot on in highly dynamic environments. Underwater however, the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM from Canon captures the full scope of the natural beauty of healthy ecosystems - on our most recent whale shark dive it meant we could actually fit the entire ~12m animals in frame! For more artistic shots, or portraits of people we work with, under and above water has to be the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM delivers footage and stills that are crisp, detailed, and creamy all at the same time.

From the content we have created on this trip we now have new corporate sponsorship models and others in place between running tourist trips, we have driven donations that allow us to employ these men and have raised awareness to millions on social media about what is really happening all over the world as you read this.

I have one core mission in my career. That is to inspire others to amplify messages that truly matter, in whatever way you can. Anyone can tell you about a social or environmental issue they are trying to change; but as digital creators we get to show the masses. We get to let me see it through the eyes of our lens. Believe me when I say this is a powerful gift. It is one I hope to use to make the world a better place. Choosing to use my work in this way is not easy, some of the things we see regularly are completely heartbreaking, and that is exactly why we must be made aware of it. Canon cameras are not just tools for a career; they are tools that allow powerful storytelling. Use yours in a way that leaves the world better than how you found it.

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