AWARDS are often made to those who offer hope and understanding in areas that are sometimes misrepresented in the public realm.
The work by Kent Stannard over the past 18 years fits that description and has qualified him as being the recipient of the Outstanding Individual Achievement Award in the inaugural Victorian Marine and Coastal Awards.
Stannard’s award recognises the research and education he has spearheaded into the feared, but endangered, great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias).
Not always the most popular of creatures, the great white plays a key role in the marine ecosystem and Stannard, through the Tag for Life program, is credited with being “the driving force behind taking the science of white shark research to the public to ensure a better understanding of this much maligned creature”.
Stannard, who lives in Blairgowrie, established the no-for-profit Tag for Life in 2008 to raise money for research and education into great white sharks (“Plumbing depths to find shark beat” The News 2/5/16).
His talks about great whites at schools, public institutions and communities throughout Victoria are credited with encouraging people from all walks of life to become actively involved in coastal and marine management.
His relationship with the abalone industry and other commercial fisheries that has enabled scientists to develop an acoustic receiver network around the Victorian coast to detect the presence of tagged sharks at key sites.
The recorded information provides safer working conditions and allows scientists to better understand the behaviour of the white shark and the habitats critical to them.
The resulting working relationships between Tag for Life and research bodies, including Phillip Island Nature Park and Deakin University in Victoria, the CSIRO and NSW Fisheries, working on seals and other marine species are leading to a better understanding of the key drivers in shark movement patterns and behaviour.
As well as sometimes going to sea helping safely catch and tag great white sharks, Stannard takes his purpose-built information caravan (Otto – the White Shark Cafe) to popular beaches throughout Victoria, sharing fact-based information material about the sharks.
A keen surfer, he says the hands on approach helps dispel misinformation surrounding white sharks and promote the need for their preservation.
His WhiteTag clothing company also raises money for Tag for Life.
Stannard’s award was on of 11 presented virtually to individuals and groups by Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio on behalf of the Victorian Marine and Coastal Council.
A list of the award winners is at: marineandcoastalcouncil.vic.gov.au/news-and-events/victorian-marine-and-coastal-awards and Tag for Life is on Facebook.