Lifestyle

This Singapore teacher quit her job to save the sharks

Kathy Xu quit her stable job as a secondary school teacher so that she could save both sharks and shark fishermen
 

This Singapore teacher quit her job to save the sharks.jpg

KATHY XU, 33
She saves sharks (and shark fishermen) in Lombok, Indonesia.

There the sharks lay, lifeless and finless on the floor of a fish market. As Kathy, founder of eco-tourism company The Dorsal Effect, continued to watch the documentary Sharkwater in horror, she knew that something had to be done about the shark fishing industry.

So, in December 2012, the secondary school teacher quit her job of seven years and headed to Lombok, Indonesia. She’d learnt about the island and its booming shark-fin business (about 400 sharks are killed daily) through Shark Savers Singapore.

There, she spoke with the fishermen and learnt how hard it is for them to earn a living. “They have to fork out about US$1,000 (roughly S$1333) for boat rental and supplies, which places them in debt even before they head out to sea. Also, they earn a measly US$85 per hunting trip – and each trip could last up to 20 days,” says Kathy.

Inspired to give these fishermen a sustainable alternative livelihood, she started The Dorsal Effect in July 2013, and hires shark fishermen to run eco tours in Lombok, paying them US$150 each per tour.

Currently, The Dorsal Effect has only two fishermen on its payroll, and Kathy – who gets a stable income from giving tuition to primary and secondary students here – plans to drum up more business and financial support for these eco tours in 2015, so she can “convert” more shark hunters into full-time eco-tour guides.

It’s an uphill task, she admits, but adds: “I want to live in a world where my children, and my children’s children, can still see sharks alive in the ocean.”

Photography: Winston Chuang, Styling: Evon Chng, Hair: Ng Huimin/Paletteinc, using M.A.C, Makeup: Eric Ng/Paletteinc, Blazer: The Kooples, T-shirt & pants: Iro

This story was first published in Her World Magazine July 2015.

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