Faces of the Sea
Humans are the primary reason sharks, manta rays, coral, rainbow parrotfish and clams are on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. For 64 years the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has monitored endangered, threatened and vulnerable animals. I wanted to do this conceptual portrait series to shed awareness on these animals by having people personify what they are quickly destroying. By taking defining characteristics of an animal and placing it on the model, the person shows the beauty of these underwater dwellers, while maintaining the human form.
These colorful creatures are found in coral reefs, a habitat for many ocean animals. They get their names from their mouths, which resemble parrot beaks. Because their habitat is being destroyed and disappearing, rainbow parrotfish have no place to raise their young. Along with overfishing and bycatch, the term for unintentionally caught animals in fishing nets, this species is struggling and is vulnerable to becoming endangered.
Despite what many people may think, coral is an animal even though it looks like a plant. It lives and grows in colonies, taking years to develop. This animal is very delicate and can be killed by a simple step of a human. Many popular shallow water coral reefs are dead because people do not understand this animal. Since coral can be so easily destroyed and take so long to come back, many different species of coral are facing huge problems. Deep-sea areas that contain coral are also being threatened due to bottom trawling – when large fishing nets are dragged along the bottom of the ocean floor, scooping up everything in its path with its steel doors. These corals that are being caught are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old and will never grow back in our lifetime.
These seemingly forgotten ocean animals often adorn personal aquariums or are used as decorations around the house. The trend of using clamshells has led to overfishing and has seriously hurt the clam population. Unless it is stopped these animals can become endangered.
Great White Shark
These large, powerful animals dominate the ocean, yet have one predator – humans. The Great White is protected under governmental acts, but still are killed by people to create decadent cuisine or trinkets for tourists. Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in some Asian countries and cultures. To obtain the main ingredient many fishermen will only cut off the fin of the shark, leaving the body behind. Other times, the teeth and jaws are collected to sell in souvenir shops. In June of 2012 a bill was proposed to the New York State Senate to ban the import of shark fins. According to the conservation group Oceana, New York is the biggest importer of shark fins on the East Coast. Unfortunately, the bill failed. This was not a complete a loss because a month later Illinois banned the trade of shark fins, joining California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington and becoming the first non-Pacific state to protect sharks.
Manta rays are large, slow, gentle creatures of the ocean that are harmless to humans. Manta ray skin is used to make leather, their cartilage is used in shark fin soup and their gill rakers are ground up for use in a traditional Chinese medicine. The overfishing of these slow maturing and reproducing animals is threatening the species. Recently Oceana gave a petition to Alibaba.com, an e-commerce website similar to eBay.com, urging them to discontinue any further sales of manta ray leather products. They agreed to discontinue their distribution of manta ray leather. Previously the business had stopped the sale of other unsustainable animal product. This is a good step toward manta ray conservation.