Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rozalia Project Intern Blog: The ocean is not just a playmate, nor a source of economic value; she is a partner

Next up in our Rozalia Project intern blog series is Inga Aprans from Gloucester, MA. Inga graduated from Salem State where she received a B.S. in Biology with an Environmental concentration and minor in Chemistry. As the daughter of a lobsterman, she has a unique perspective on the sea.

“If you spend too much time in the water, you’ll turn into a fish”, my father said to me as I horrifically looked at my legs. I was about nine years old and hadn’t yet discovered the benefits of skin moisturizer. Continuous swimming in the ocean coupled with the strong rays of the summer sun had left my skin dry and salty; flaky patches resembling scales had begun to pop up over my sun kissed legs. I was definitely turning into a fish. 

I comforted myself by thinking that we were probably all turning into fish, not just me. My three older brothers spent just as much time in the water. Growing up on the coast in Massachusetts, our summers were idyllically spent sailing, swimming and snorkeling . The ocean was our playground. 

As the years passed, one by one my brothers forfeited their weekend ocean play for work. My father is a lobster fisherman, and  my brothers’ coming of age ceremony consisted of 3 am wake up calls and rolling seas. Slowly, this small change in family life routine extended to a change in my perception of the ocean. I began to make sense of the magnitude of my father’s frustration at the dinner table when his catch was low that day, when draggers ran over his gear, or when due to weather, he didn’t get out at all. The ocean and her resources provided for us. When these issues occurred, they directly affected our livelihood. This solipsistic starting point was what initially propelled me into pursuing a career in fisheries and marine conservation. I wanted to protect what was mine; a healthy ocean meant healthy lobsters meant food on our table and the means to uphold our loving household and lifestyle. 
Once I was old enough to work alongside my father on the boat, I marveled at his familiarity, knowledge, and respect for the ocean. His motions were fluid and strong, and always was he paying attention to the water and adjusting to its will. By returning lobsters that were too big or too small, or those that had spawned or were to spawn, he worked to ensure there would be lobsters for future days and future generations. Through watching him I discovered that

the ocean was not just a playmate, nor was she just a source of economic value; she was a partner.

However, while I attended college the Northeast ground-fishery continued to collapse and I realized that while things seemed conservationally sound within my family, this partnership was not universally honored. As I watched members of my community fight against government figures and question the validity of science, I became determined to find a way to unite all walks of life who hold the ocean close to their heart. Everyone involved ultimately has the same goal: to keep the marine ecosystem healthy. To do that, our partnership must be maintained and improved. 

To me, Rozalia Project epitomizes the unification that I strive for. The combination of scientific research, education, and hands-on work all on a sailboat cultivates the type of community that I hope for.

The concept of “protecting what you love” rings so true to me. I grew up spectacularly, I was loved, well cared for and had the most beautiful playground. The nucleus of all of those experiences, and all those that have come after, is the marine environment. In the career choices I have made, I have tried to reflect my love for this environment and my desire to protect it. Being a part of Rozalia is the next step in my journey, and I couldn’t be more excited. 

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