Interview with Jacqui Smith

Skeleton Sea meets Jacqui Smith to get an insight view about the Keep the Oceans Clean! campaign which has been launched at the Volvo Ocean Race 2011. The 30-year old Austrailian from Membula is Volvo’s  Ocean Race Project Coordinator for this initiative. We sat down in Alicante to talk about her role and her motivation for this environmental project.

When did you become aware of the pollution of our oceans for the first time?
When I was quite young! I grew up on a farm that fronted onto Ninety Mile Beach in eastern Victoria (Australia), which nearby had an ocean outfall diverting industrial waste and sewage straight into the ocean. Even at an early age, I couldn’t fathom the concept that humans could pollute the ocean like that… I still remember seeing the dirty smudge in the sea at the end of the pipeline. It didn’t sit well with me then, and certainly doesn’t now!

Tell us about your educational background

I studied Marine Resource Management at the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania. It was wonderful! We learnt a wide variety of subjects, like marine biology, fisheries management, oceanography, environmental law and coastal zone policy and management, which gave me a broad perspective and good foundation stone. We also spent a week each year on a Fishing Trawler, experiencing what we were learning how to manage, as well as learning how

to SCUBA dive. It gave me a great all-round perspective on the elements involved in looking after the ocean.

After this, I undertook a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Studies (Honours) at the University of Tasmania, which also broadened my outlook. My thesis was based on Freshwater Allocation and Management in a small community with many conflicting needs and uses of this precious resource (water), which are synonymous with the conflicting stakeholders involved with marine related issues as well. A good insight into the importance of balancing social, economic an

d environmental factors in decision-making.

I chose this path quite simply because I love the ocean! I feel like I have an affinity with the sea, and have always loved being in or close to it. However, I actually started studying Osteopathy after leaving school, but deferred a year into the five-year degree because of a lack of passion for it – and certainly found it when I re-connected with the ocean.

What’s your role in the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race?
I have the fortunate position of being Project Coordinator for the ‘Keep the Oceans Clean!’ initiative. This project is the Volvo Ocean Race’s commitment to doing something positive for the oceans, and I am responsible for coordinating a series of activities, events and experiences in each Stopover. I will travel with the Volvo Ocean Race and help to spread the ‘Keep the Oceans Clean!’ message with Skeleton Sea.

What’s the idea behind the Keep the Oceans Clean! initiative?
Knut Frostad (CEO of Volvo Ocean Race) wanted to make a positive difference to ocean conservation through awareness and action in the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race, and searched for a project that was practical and sent a resounding message. The pollution problem in our oceans is real – and with the international platform that is the Volvo Ocean Race, a strong ocean conservation message can be sent. With the help of the Skeleton Sea artists, the initiative aims to provide a highly visual, memorable and positive learning experience to visitors to the Volvo Ocean Race Village that delivers our ‘Keep the Oceans Clean!’ message loud and clear.

Did the Volvo Ocean race support similar environmental projects in the past?
In the last event, the Volvo Ocean Race hosted a water-sampling project that involved teams collecting specimens all around the globe and analysing them for pest species. A scientific assessment was carried out, and instrumental facts were gained about the spread of pest species in the world’s oceans.

How did you get in touch with Skeleton Sea?
Skeleton Sea was brought to our attention through the Alicante Stopover Managers, who have contracted Skeleton Sea to bring their wonderful exhibition to the Alicante Race Village. Upon watching ‘Albatross Exhibitionist’ we were instantly converted, and knew this was the message we wanted to take with us around the world. Skeleton Sea’s enthusiastic and professional responses to our initial emails and phone conversations have reassured us that this is the right path we are taking.

What are your personal goals and hopes for the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race and the Keep the Oceans Clean! initiative?
Like Knut, I would really like to make a tangible difference to ocean conservation through this initiative. Already, people are commenting on how moved they are by the ‘Albatross Exhibitionist’ film that is being screened in the Dome, especially parents observing a change in their child’s behaviour and mind-set. This is exactly what we set out to achieve.

For me, the ocean is a source of inspiration – and I hope I can share this with people around the world and inspire them care for it as well.

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