What’s it like to live the Life of Riley? Join us for the podcast episode and find out. Riley Elliott is a surfer, spear fisherman, and leading shark scientist from New Zealand that knows how to make waves across the globe. Riley’s philosophy is to pull you into his world through stunning visual imagery and a robust media presence. He is fond of the 1968 quote by Baba Dioum, “in the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” Riley’s mission is to get you to love and understand the ocean and the critical role it plays in the health of our planet.
Riley is best known for his work with sharks. He has studied shark behavior extensively to the point of being able to swim comfortably with some of the largest species and he describes in this episode some of the body language used to communicate with them. He also talks about the Western Australian Shark Cull that was implemented from 2014-2017 and his role in building opposition to the practice, which was abandoned to to widespread backlash from the Australian citizens.
We also talk about the concept of “Every Second Breath.” We often think about trees as being the primary consumers of CO2, and producers of oxygen, and that our primary conservation goal is to protect forests. Although this is true, Riley explains that the oceans play an equally vital role in the oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle, with phytoplankton and ocean based plants creating oxygen for every second breath that we breathe. That’s a shit ton of oxygen, and goes almost entirely unnoticed in terms of public awareness.
- 8:20 – Explains how sharks hang out in the surf zone beneath the surface to allow the waves to facilitate breathing and digest food.
- 9:20 – Describes the practice of shark finning. New Zealand at one point was the 5th leading exporter of fins. Focused PhD on the blue shark due to being the most finned species. Led to the finning practice being banned in New Zealand in 2014
- 13:15 – Blue sharks are the by-catch of tuna long lining practice. They were once worthless and cut free from tuna lines, but now finned due to rise in Chinese affluence and demand for shark fin soup.
- 16:00 – Pelagic shark migratory patterns cross international waters with little to no regulation or observer coverage. Presents the highest risk for human predation of sharks
- 18:00 – Describes the concept of trophic cascade
- 20:20 – Explains the Every Second Breath concept and the oceans role in the Oxygen-CO2 cycle
- 23:35 – Describes shark interactions and body language
- 35:20 – Participation in eradicating the western Australian shark cull
- 39:10 – Explains philosophy of using stimulating visual imagery to communicate science