A Mermaid in Macau?

A Mermaid in Macau?

Has anyone ever seen a mermaid in Macau? We didn’t think so, but that may change in future. Hannah Fraser is a professional mermaid and environmentalist who features in short films, music videos, ad campaigns and environmental documentaries, such as the award-winning The Cove, and travels the world to raise awareness on ocean conservation. Hannah spoke to Pets&Hugs about deep-sea encounters, and ways we can all help to protect our oceans, and her hopes of weaving her magic- right here in Macau.

p32 mermaid 01Many of us grow up harbouring dreams of being astronauts, knights and superheroes, only to settle into a more mainstream occupation later in life. However, that’s not how life turned out for one little girl.

Hannah Fraser developed a fascination for mermaids at the age of three and made her first mermaid tail when she was nine years old, after seeing the film Splash with Daryl Hannah.

Hannah, from Australia, today lives in Los Angeles and performs as a mermaid all over the world, educating people about ocean conservation, modelling, acting, performing and swimming with whales, dolphins, stingrays and even sharks.

Hannah often gets asked what it takes to become a mermaid and she is very clear about the nature of her profession. “Being a professional mermaid is a self created job. There are no schools you can go to, or agents that will find you specific mermaid work. You have to be self-motivated in your approach to making it happen!” Being healthy is also important, “Start by leading a healthy lifestyle… lots of yoga, breathing, good food, meditation, and ocean/water activity. Practice your swimming and breath hold as often as you can!”

Hannah can hold her breath for up to two minutes and swim to depths of nearly 14 metres, without the restraints of diving gear, allowing her to move like a real mermaid.

Having travelled to some of the most exquisite locations around the world, the beauty of life below the surface is something Hannah feels a deep connection with, and one she wants to
share. There have been many magnificent underwater moments so far, and one that stands out the most involves one of the oceans’ largest inhabitants.

“The most memorable experience was seeing massive humpback whales emerge from the deep blue endless sea as I looked below me. The sheer size of them was overwhelming, then when
I started to get scared and feel like I would just fall into its mouth or get hit by it’s tail, I noticed that it was extremely aware of me, and was careful about how it moved when it came close to me. I could sense an amazing intelligence and sentience looking at me from its huge eye, and was overcome with wonder that these animals that have been hunted by our species for years chose
to come and interact with us,play with us and introduce their babies to us. Just amazing!”

It can be tricky knowing what to expect when you come face to face with creatures that you have never come across on land, and the largest sharks in the world, Whale Sharks, are an example of a case where looks were deceiving. “Whale sharks are just SO enormous and scary looking, and yet, when you swim with them, you realize they are

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actually very docile, harmless and slow moving. This surprised me, because all the other sharks I have swam with are quite intimidating and fast!”

Despite being a mermaid and feeling at home underwater, there were certain neighbours that Hannah felt somewhat nervous around, namely, sharks. “I thought if I was going to be a professional mermaid I’d have to face my fear of sharks”, she said in an interview in 2009, before swimming in her tail with 4 metre Great White Sharks off Guadalupe Island, Mexico.

“I got my tail on and got into the water. I was supposed to be surrounded by divers, but in the mermaid tail I swim much faster than anyone else. I realised
I was on my own,but I stayed calm”. On another occasion there was, however, a scary shark encounter, “Another time a shark turned round and came towards me, so I
made a scary face and screamed at it in the water, amazingly I scared it off. I felt invincible for months afterwards”.

The importance of sharks in the underwater hierarchy plays a crucial role for the survival of many sea creatures. The shark fin trade, of which 51% goes through Hong Kong, is playing havoc with the numbers of sharks swimming in our oceans today.

Hannah is optimistic about the growing awareness around this matter. “I think that slowly we as a species are awakening to the fact that rather than consuming our resources and pillaging the animal kingdom, we can find so much more joy in interacting with other sentient beings, and respecting the blessings we have been given while living on this planet. Continual media pressure to end slaughter and educating people about the animals with inspiration over devastation is the best way forward in this regard. I have found that showing images of human interaction with wild animals inspires people to feel differently about creatures that they previously only saw as meat, or dangerous and scary”.

When it comes to identifying the biggest problem we face today, the professional mermaid is quick to identify the main culprit, “Our biggest problem is our ourselves! If we could each just learn to make different choices every day that impact less and consume less of the resources on this planet, we could make suc

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h huge changes in a short time. I am not asking anyone to give up necessary things.. Just to make different choices that help and support the sustainability of this planet we call home. Don’t eat apex predator animals that are integral to the survival of the food chain. Don’t waste resources. Reduce, re-use, recycle! Try vegetarian options… a vegetable diet uses much less resources to get the same amount of food to your plate and has many proven health benefits”.

Hannah feels that we are at a significant point in time and that a call to action is needed, “As far as the ocean life is concerned, we are really on the tipping point for its (and our) survival! SO many creatures are on the brink of extinction… so many areas are polluted, so many ecosystems are unbalanced. Now is the time for radical re-evaluation of how we interact with our world, and the lifeblood of this planet… the ocean!”.

Whales, sharks, manta rays, Hannah’s colleagues are many, and come in all shapes and sizes, but her love for nature and connection to animals alsoextends to dry land, “On dry land, I love cats… I have a lot of Leo in my astrological chart, and I was born in the Chinese year of the TIGER, so if you believe in astrology, perhaps that’s why I relate so well to them. I also have a fondness for hummingbirds”, she shares.

It would be wonderful to have Hannah Mermaid come to Macau and teach us more about the ocean and to show audiences how mermaids move through water, and it’s an ambition the mermaid has harboured for a while, “I would absolutely LOVE to visit Macau and swim as a mermaid. I have been hoping to perform at the City of Dreams for some time now… and I hope that dream will come to fruition soon!”
Hannah has a few tips on ways YOU can make a difference to our oceans, on a daily basis:
1. Mind Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption
Reduce the effects of climate change on the ocean by leaving the car at home when you can and being conscious of your energy use at home and work. A few things you can do to get started today: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, take the stairs, and bundle up or use a fan to avoid oversetting your thermostat.

2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices
Global fish populations are rapidly being depleted due to demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable.

3. Use Fewer Plastic Products
Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. To limit your impact, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in non- disposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible.

4. Help Take Care of the Beach
Whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or relaxing on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups.

5. Don’t Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life
Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewellery, tortoise shell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products.

6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner
Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.

7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean
Many institutes and organizations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organization and consider giving financial support or volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home.

8. Influence Change in Your Community
Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects. Consider patronizing restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood, and speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter.

9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly
Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life
All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health— then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others.