Veerle Roelandt (Vee)

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Hails from: Belgium
Currently lives in: Belgium
Favorite Place: On deck of a diving boat, somewhere in the middle of the ocean. (with a slight” preference for the waters around Cocos Island)
Favorite Things to Do: Diving, Cycling, Traveling
Favorite Shark: That’s a difficult one : I love all sharks, but I absolutely adore schooling sharks (hammerheads, silky sharks, ...)

What shark are you most like and why?
As silky sharks are known to be very active sharks I should say silky shark, but my son thinks whale shark : big mouth but nothing to fear ...

Why sharks & the issue of shark finning?
Diving Cocos Island for the first time in 2008, seeing all those schoolings of hammerheads and all those other shark species was such an amazing thrill. But the illegal fisherboats and longliners around the island and the bridge on the island (made by the park rangers out of confiscated fishing material) made me think, I just couldn’t start to imagine how many sharks were killed by that and I realized that if we would like to return and enjoy the shark diving, we would have to do something. So back home I started checking the internet, was devastated by the numbers of shark killings globally, opened a Facebook account, searched for like minded people and decided to give it my best to try to save as many sharks as I could.

Our oceans are so beautiful, there is so much to learn still, we just can’t keep using them as our trash can. “Jaws” was just a movie, the animal was just a plastic gadget, this is not at all what sharks are like, don’t fear them, fear for them!

Short Bio:
In 1996 during one of our holidays, our son loved the kids club in the hotel that much that he just wanted to go there all day, we are not the ones to just lay besides the swimming pool all day, so we grabbed our change : next to the kids club was the diving school, maybe that would be just the right answer to our boredom problem. What we of course didn’t know then was that once you are infected with the virus it never ever leaves your body. Not even after a failed surgery that kept me in an artificial coma for weeks, first thing I wanted to know when waking up was whether I would still be able to dive  I worked real hard, crossed my own borders many times, but it paid off : I passed all test and was declared fit to dive again. In the meantime, our son inherited the same passion and that of course makes it very easy : all members of the family have the same hobby, so no arguments on what to do.

Since we own our own bakery and shop, I work at home, making it very easy for me to browse the internet and facebook pages for info, so I ended up administrating a few shark conservation pages. For me raising awareness is important as I notice that many people still have the wrong idea about sharks, they really have no clue of what is going on. Therefore I also try to help out on events like European Shark Week, explaining people what is going on and why sharks are important. I have learned that if you want something real bad and you work hard for it, it is possible, so I use that passion for the sharks also : writing letters to governments, asking shops, restaurants, … to stop selling shark products, … Because every shark counts, and once the demand for shark products will decline, there will be no more need for the killing. So I just keep going, hoping that one day we will be able to say : “We did it”