This story was shortlisted in the Beyond The Dial Essay Writing Competition by Oris
As the light exploded from above, I felt the oxygen in my body circulate. Floating, I was on my back looking upwards into a blue expanse. But I felt tethered, stuck and then. Free. I felt a presence by my side. It felt safe. Secure. I was swimming above what looked like a giant mountain range. Smaller fish darted about in colourful shoals of azure and gold. They seemed to be collectively alarmed by our presence and cleared a path as one, as we moved into them. The shoal split in two to reveal an alien landscape of undulating, brittle, breathing rock. Soft slopes of formed lava combined with white, waving fronds of hard pitted trees. Colours danced and bubbles burst in light reflected hues of yellow, silver sunshine.
This was my first time.
Not knowing what to expect is the best part of any new experience. No preconceptions. No expectations. Just pure emersion in the moment. In that moment.
We darted around like synchronised swimmers. Through the shoals of fish as if swimming into a solid curtain of living, breathing colour. My companion turned to the right. I followed. Then lower, deeper and closer to the small caves below. Then the atmosphere changed. A sudden feeling of stillness. It was the feeling you get when you sense someone is standing behind you. My buddy moved down, deeper still. Darted. Then attacked. I watched in awe as she caught a fish with such speed and accuracy that I couldn’t contain myself, nodding my head up and down in excitement. She nodded back to me. Calm. Controlled.
Next, it was my turn.
My heart raced as I looked down and noticed a fish swimming near a small cave on its own. Slowly I descended. Aiming straight at it. Down further.
I got it!
Swimming back and up and side to side. My victory lap.
My companion looked on with pride. Her work was done. She was satisfied with the result of the training program and went on to attend to others in the group.
I swam on and caught another, then another until I could carry no more.
Swimming back towards my buddy, I stopped to watch her coaching another beginner. They dived down in unison as the shoals departed in abstract silver curls. I swam over and deeper to take a closer look at the master in action. The time passed quickly.
Then it happened.
First, the sound from above. A deep throbbing. A deafening roar turning into a continuous tone.
Then. Stop. Silence.
A large shape had now blocked our view from above. The sunlight had turned to darkness almost immediately. This was a creature of great length and width, but it seemed dead. Static. Just floating.
I decided to ignore it and continued with my dive, looking on with admiration at the master with her trainees. As I prepared to join them, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my mouth. A tugging, pulling sensation. Then up and up and up towards the dark object. I tried to fight it but the more I fought the more it pulled and pulled.
The light burst into my eyes like needles. It was so bright that I couldn’t see. I felt a hand pull me, grab me. Up into the object and over, inside. A group of men with equipment dragged me on to the deck, knives out cutting into me, the pain excruciating, my fins were removed my tail was removed then I was thrown back into the water. I tried to swim but I could not, I tried to breathe but I could not. As I felt the air slip away, I remembered my first dive with my mother by my side. I would never have the chance to be the teacher, to be the master…
Every year thousands of young sharks are needlessly murdered for their fins. The fins are then sold for huge profit to the restaurant, food processing, and medical supplements industry. This is not only a cruel act of barbarity but also a major cause of habitat disruption. Most shark species don’t breed until they are 20 years old or so and when the young are killed in this way, the knock-on effect is devastating to the sustainability of the species.
Bill Clinton signed the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 (SFPA), which banned finning on any fishing vessel within United States territorial waters and on all U.S.-flagged fishing vessels in international waters. Additionally, shark fins could not be imported into the United States without the associated carcass. (Wikipedia)
However, the practice still continues in other jurisdictions to this day