My secret love affair started during July 2013 in Madagascar and I have never forgotten the first time I saw him. He was graceful and serene whilst at the same time powerful and enigmatic. Over the past four years I have worn a metal pendent of him around my neck everyday. It may sound like I have a similar obsession or derangement as Alex the ‘bunny boiler’ in Fatal Attraction however my secret love affair is with the Blue Spotted Stingray.
This blog post marks a year, almost to the day, since I started writing That Fish Blog and a year since I chose the stingray to represent it based on the same metal pendant I wear around my neck. My beautiful necklace was forged in Madagascar by the children of the Andavadoaka fisherman and women. They created it from the local coins which value is so low they are worth more melted down and cast into bespoke necklaces then used as currency. I still remember sitting with my amazing dive buddy on my porch as the sun went down, our toes in the warm sand, the Ocean at our fingertips and choosing the necklace from a young girl. She had five or six necklaces to choose from, we both had different reasons for our choice, he decided upon a turtle to represent his desire to see one in the wild. I selected a slightly rounder younger looking stingray, as I have always been known for my chubby cheeks, I thought we had a few things in common. I have worn that necklace ever since and it has seen me through some of my toughest journeys but has never broken.
The Maori tell a story about Whaitere – The Enchanted Stingray. This myth is about a stingray whose parents disappear. With the help of Hinemoana (Goddess of the Ocean, waves, currents, sea food and fish), Whaitere is taken to the underworld to find her parents. Her mother explains how Whaitere has been chosen as a guardian and must teach people fish to respect her home, the Ocean. I did not know the myth of Whaitere when I saw that first Blue Spotted Stingray in Madagascar, nor did I know about it when I bought my necklace or when I chose the stingray as this blog’s symbol. When I heard this myth numerous events in my life slotted together and it was slightly disconcerting that I had inadvertently chosen such a poignant symbol for my platform for marine education. What can I say, I just always knew me and the stingray would have a beautiful love affair.
So this blog post is dedicated to all rays whose place on this earth is threatened as currently over a quarter face extinction. It was the stingray that first taught me to love the Ocean, so as Whaitere promised to be its guardian I promise to abide by the symbol of That Fish Blog in the hope that I can inspire ‘people fish’ to respect our Ocean and love the home of some our most endangered animals.