In July, the unthinkable happened. We lost one of our own to a tragic accident. It hit us hard and changed us all. In pursuit of fish to eat and ever deeper depths in a sport he increasingly embraced, Zeddy Seymour, our Cabo Verde Country Coordinator, went spearfishing while in island of Sal. He did not surface from a deep dive. The news spread like a flash and left us in shock. Friends and colleagues were respectful and kind to keep it from social media while his family was alerted, and steps were taken to recover him from one of his favorite sea sites. Everyone, and I mean everyone, pulled together in a huge effort to bring him home to his family in the UK. In record time. He would have marveled at our collective efficiency and the temporary lifting of the bureaucracy’s veil to achieve this singular goal.
The chasm left by his death has been hard to fill. Kind and easy in manner, he made loyal friends and colleagues at every turn. Committed and passionate about people and wildlife, and underpinning conservation with science, he reveled in the freedoms brought by the sea and the magnificence of working with its largest creatures. He shared this passion with all he encountered and made steadfast friends in the fishing communities with whom he worked. Zeddy may now be gone but he has not truly left. His legacy of starting the first large study on sharks in Cabo Verde, of discovering shark nurseries, tracking the largest of sharks and rays, improving understanding and conservation of these animals with fishers, students and decision-makers and the many students he inspired, continues. In fact, the movement he started is growing in strength and scope.
Our resilient Cabo Verdean Education and Outreach Officer, Cintia Lima, took over the role of Country Coordinator. She is grappling with a learning curve as she acquires leadership and managerial skills to best run a country program. Our team with many skills in strategy, HR, finance, tech is providing her with support to help her grow into this post and make it her own. Support extends to our top three community fisher leaders: Ze Luis Monteiro, Albertino ‘Tchoka’ Moreno and Joao Lima. With Zeddy’s loss, the four marine musketeers are now three: they have gamely taken the baton of Zeddy’s legacy and seeking to expand our program to other islands. Our research intern and recently graduated master’s student Francesco Garzon took on the mantle of Research Officer, and now runs our CV research and monitoring program, while helping to prepare several of Zeddy’s pending works for publication. Since identifying and nurturing local talent is important to us, we are looking to take on two local interns and masters students to grow our program further as Zeddy had planned.
We may have lost an incredible human, but he created a robust program that will grow his legacy while benefiting Cabo Verde, its coastal fishers and the marine wildlife we see to conserve. In parting, I share one of my favorite poems that I sent to his family to be read at his funeral.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry
We are keen to support Zeddy’s legacy through a scholarship program for children of Cabo Verde’s traditional fishers who wish to attend high school and local student interns that we are naming the Zeddy Seymour Scholarship Fund.
These students will become the decision-makers of tomorrow and help us to secure a future for sharks and rays and the communities that depend on them in Cabo Verde. Should you feel so moved, please consider donating to this scholarship fund at www.maralliance.org/donate and include the Zeddy scholarship fund in the notes.