Children have always been fascinated by stories about mythical creatures. Australian Hannah Fraser capitalised on this knowledge by turning herself into a freelance professional mermaid, to talk to school students about ocean conservation.
Fraser has become an ambassador for the seas, participating in the recent film Mantas Last Dance, which caused the Convention for International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) to put manta rays on the endangered species list. She was also on set for the filming of the Oscar-winning documentary film, The Cove, in Taiji, Japan, which captured the slaughter of dolphins.
Fraser, who says she’s cared passionately for the environment all her life, knew that mermaids were a way to capture the attention of young audiences: “Mermaids are positive female role models and they are passionate about conserving our oceans. Mermaids are alluring, yet independent.”
Fraser’s proud of the subculture she’s helped create. “When I started performing as a mermaid, there were no other freelance professional mermaids in the world. No one had figured out that it could be a career path. Now that people have seen what I’ve achieved, there are thousands of girls around the world with their own tails, but only about a dozen working as professional mermaids with a sustainable career.”
Swimming with unpredictable wild underwater creatures is both thrilling and heart-wrenching, says Fraser. “I’ve witnessed sharks diminishing so terribly – sickened from our pollution, hunted and fished into extinction. It breaks my heart. I decided to create beautiful images of the connection possible between humans and ocean creatures to inspire people around the world to protect and love them.”
Fraser has valuable career advice for would-be mermaids: “To be able to create convincing mermaid photos and footage, you need to have a very strong ability to hold your breath and develop extremely strong swimming skills. You have to be dive-certified; not afraid of marine wildlife; have ocean experience in tides, currents, waves and varying temperature. You are always in public and need to be outgoing, personable, friendly, confident – unafraid of looking like a freak!”
Most importantly, says Fraser, mermaids must put the planet first. “We are at a crisis point with our oceans right now. Scientific studies are telling us that if we don’t radically change the way we are treating them, they will fail in the next 10–20 years. No ocean – no life on planet Earth. The ocean is calling out to humans to make a shift; the mermaid is a symbol of the land and the primal ocean reuniting again as one.”
Category: Summer 2015