Home ContentFlourishing Woman: Amanda Elizabeth

Flourishing Woman: Amanda Elizabeth

Published : August 18, 2017

Amanda Elizabeth is a Shark Biologist in Perth, Western Australia who recently completed her Masters degree in Marine Biology. Amanda’s passion for protecting sharks led to the creation of her Fin Free Soup project and becoming an ambassador for Generation Awakening.

Interview conducted by Juanita Pirozzi


What inspired you to create your Fin Free Soup project?


It grew out of a natural interest. I was curious to see how many restaurants in Perth were serving shark fin soup. I started to search local non-government organisations (NGO’s) for information but the most I could come up with from these sources were between 6 and 12 restaurants. So I began to look at menus over the internet but these were sometimes old and outdated, sometimes I found places that did not have shark fin soup on their menu but were still serving it. It was then that the scientist in me took over, if I was going to do this I wanted to do it properly, so I called every Asian restaurant in Perth and compiled my own data base. I thought the best way to convey this information was through a website, but I did not want it to be about berating the restaurants that serve the dish, but supporting the restaurants that were not. I wanted to shed light on Australia’s involvement in the shark fin trade, educate the general public and encourage them to speak to their local restaurants about taking shark fin soup off the menu. 


Were there any challenges in making the Fin Free Soup project happen? How did you overcome them?


The greatest obstacles were time and money. Obtaining all of the information took quite a long time. I made over 400 phone calls and most of these had to be made between 5pm and 9pm when the restaurants were open for dinner. The project was completely self-funded and I was a full time student at the time, so financing the project was also a challenge, but I am very happy with how it turned out. I believe that if you are completely dedicated to a cause or purpose and are determined to see it through then anything is possible.


What other causes have you organised or are currently supporting?


I have been involved with a number of initiatives over the years, mostly involving animal conservation and environmental issues. At the moment, however, I am focused on my new role as an ambassador for Generation Awakening. Generation Awakening’s mission is ‘to serve as a platform for individuals and organizations to come together to work collectively on the most pressing issues of our generation.’ This incredible organisation work towards achieving ten key goals and, although I will support and assist with each and every one, my focus is to represent their ‘Save the Ocean’ initiative. My first goal is to bring awareness to the global shark fin trade and shed light on Australia’s role in this, my second is to have a complete ban on shark fin products Australia wide. We are currently working together to grow the Fin Free Soup initiative and to introduce it to other countries.


How did your fascination with sharks begin? 


I have been in love with the ocean and its animals for as long as I can remember. I don’t know where my fascination with sharks in particular came from. All I know is that I was spending more and more time watching shark documentaries and reading articles on sharks until one day I realised, this had to become my career.


Tell us about your first experience swimming with sharks.


It was incredible. They were reef sharks and they looked so beautiful and peaceful swimming around the ocean floor. They were actually very timid so we could barely approach them. They are so different in nature to how they are portrayed in the media and in film. I wish everyone could experience it. If nothing else, it gives you a great sense of respect for animals that have survived several mass extinctions.


Are there many other female shark biologists in your sector? If not, how does it feel to work in a male dominated industry?


I think more women are entering the field of science however it is still a very male dominated space. But I enjoy challenging the status quo and being a part of the minority, sometimes being underestimated is the greatest advantage you can have.


Have there been times when people haven’t taken your work seriously because you’re a woman?  If so, how do you overcome this?


If they have I haven’t noticed. I generally keep persevering until I get to where I want to be. If someone questions the validity of my work or my achievements, I tend to give them the attention they deserve; zero.


What else are you passionate about?


Most of my interests and passions revolve around two things; the ocean and animals. I enjoy stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling, diving and just being at the beach in general. Travel would have to come into that as well as I love visiting new dive spots and immersing myself in different cultures. I feel that the more I understand other cultures and their interactions with sharks, the better I can help to conserve them.


Who are your female role models? What do you admire about them?


I admire different women for different reasons, but generally they have three common qualities; purpose, strength and intelligence. I am inspired by women who fight tirelessly to make a positive difference in the world. Alexandra Cousteau is a tireless ambassador for the environment, she continues to educate people through various platforms on the importance of environmental conservation. It is women like her who strive to make the world a better place for the rest of us, and thus, are deserved of our respect and gratitude.


Please visit Fin Free Soup to find restaurants in Perth, Western Australia that don’t serve shark fin soup. All supporting restaurants have been verified by Amanda Elizabeth.
 




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