Michel ‘Goff’ Strogoff: Fisherman Turned Conservation Filmmaker


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As scuba divers, we’re continuously assembly some fairly superior individuals, from whale defenders to every-day beach cleaners. This group is astounding, and its capability to continually transfer the needle in the direction of cleaner oceans exhibits the facility of ardour.

Just lately, we discovered of 1 Malagasy diver with an unimaginable story. Michel ‘Goff’ Strogoff grew up as a member of a semi-nomadic tribe in Madagascar, and he used to work as a shark, turtle and sea cucumber fisherman. However, about ten years in the past, he put his fishing gear away in favor of a digital camera, turning into certainly one of Madagascar’s main conservation and wildlife photographers and filmmakers.

We caught up with Goff to speak about his life experiences and the way he’s now utilizing his digital camera to assist save environments above and under the floor. Right here’s what he informed us about his ever-evolving relationship with the ocean:

Madagascar Village where Michelle Strogoff grew up
Goff’s village in Madagascar – Photograph by Chris Scarffe

1. Hello Goff! Inform us a bit about your private historical past. You grew up as a member of the semi-nomadic Vezo tribe in Madagascar. What was that like?

Hello, my identify is Michel Strogoff however everybody calls me Goff. I grew up in a small fishing village referred to as Andavadoake on the southwest coast of Madagascar. I'm a former shark, turtle and sea cucumber fisherman turned environmental filmmaker, photographer and activist. 

I'm very proud to be Vezo. We're fishers whose cultural id for hundreds of years is sure to the ocean. So I all the time knew that once I was older I might grow to be a fisherman like my ancestors. Once I was 16 I joined my uncle on a fishing migration up the west coast of Madagascar to fish for sharks, rays and turtles and to free dive for sea cucumbers. The cash I comprised of this journey meant that I might afford to purchase my very own fishing gear and so with my brother and my crew we began to fish for ourselves. At first we might catch a whole lot of sharks and the cash was excellent. This meant I might present for myself and assist my mother and father. Nevertheless because the years went on we might catch fewer and fewer sharks and different marine species and we needed to sail additional offshore to make a dwelling. This fearful me as the place I come from there are only a few choices to make a dwelling aside from fishing. 

Michele Strogoff Goff as a shark fisherman
Goff as a fisherman – Photograph by Garth Cripps

2. As a shark, turtle and sea cucumber fisherman, what prompted your transition to turn out to be a conservation and wildlife filmmaker and photographer? How did you determine it was time to cease fishing?

The primary cause that I made a decision to cease fishing was due to my older brother Thomas. He had began working for a British NGO referred to as Blue Ventures who had a base in my village finishing up marine conservation. Thomas labored on their shark and turtle tasks the place he would train the group about extra sustainable fishing practices. I noticed his instructional work and it made me really feel dangerous inside that I used to be doing the very actions that he was educating about. In consequence I made a decision to comply with my brother’s lead and I began to work for a similar NGO to gather knowledge on the variety of sharks and turtles being caught by the area people.  In later years I turned concerned in marine schooling. 

My life modified once more in 2014 once I met a British environmental filmmaker referred to as Chris Scarffe, who was filming for a challenge for Vice on HBO on overfishing. A good friend really helpful me to Chris and he requested me to be the translator and “fixer” for the TV present. Through the years when Chris returned to Madagascar for different work he taught me how you can professionally movie and photograph. We turned good associates and in 2019 we determined to create Madagascar Film & Photography collectively.  Since we began collaborating  I've been lucky to work on some superb tasks. This has included filming big whale sharks for a conservation program, filming the relocation of Madagascar largest lemur the indri and going undercover to show the unlawful shark fin and turtle trades. 

padi torchbearer michele strogoff goff filming a green turtle underwater in Madagascar
Goff pictures a inexperienced sea turtle – Photograph by Chris Scarffe

three. You’re additionally a PADI Assistant Teacher. How did you get into scuba diving?

Sure, that’s proper I'm a PADI AI. I first obtained into scuba diving by way of the NGO Blue Ventures while I used to be working for them. I used to be actually fortunate that they selected me to be the primary of their scholarship college students who was educated to turn into a scuba diving skilled. The course meant that I learnt English and as my expertise progressed I put them to good use finishing up marine surveys and educating others concerning the significance of the underwater world. 

I liked scuba diving from my first dive. I had grown up within the water free diving for sea cucumbers and spearfishing, however this was so a lot better. I might keep underwater a lot longer and it was a totally totally different expertise to be immersed underwater for therefore lengthy. 

PADI torchbearer goff prepares his underwater camera
Goff prepares his digital camera earlier than a dive – Photograph by Leah Glass

four. You haven’t been a filmmaker and photographer for very lengthy, however you’ve achieved quite a lot of success. In reality, you’re a member of the Explorers Club 50 and a decide on the 2021 UN World Oceans Day Photo Competition. To what do you attribute this success? 

I care so much about our oceans. I had no actual formal schooling however the sea was there to offer for me, my household and my group. If we don’t enhance the best way that fisheries are managed I'm nervous fish shares will collapse and that there shall be nothing left to help future generations and our planet. That is what drives me to do the work that I do. I need to assist to provide individuals a voice and to face up towards these which might be destroying our surroundings. 

padi torchbearer goff documenting the shark fin trade
Goff paperwork the shark fin commerce – Photograph by Chris Scarffe

5. You employ your digital camera to assist save the ocean. What recommendation would you give different underwater photographers who need to use their expertise for conservation?

Inform the tales that you're most keen about. I consider this all the time exhibits in your work. By no means cease studying both! Follow, apply apply. 

padi torchbearer michele strogoff goff working on filming daughters of the deep video
Goff and Mary Jeanne – Photograph by Maisie Jeffreys

6. You’ve lately teamed up with Daughters of the Deep (DOTD) and the Madagascar Analysis and Conservation Institute (MRCI) to create a movie about their new initiative that helps underprivileged feminine college students to realize an schooling within the marine conservation subject. Why is that this initiative necessary to you?

I don’t come from a privileged background myself however by means of exhausting work and the help of others and the chance to study information expertise I'm able to do what I do right now. For this reason I used to be so eager to be concerned within the Daughters of the Deep scholarship program. Coming from a small village like Mary Jeanne (the primary DOTD scholarship scholar) myself, I understand how troublesome it's for younger individuals in these communities to work in marine science and conservation. That is very true for ladies, who are sometimes missed and anticipated to satisfy conventional roles within the house. I consider that we should always all have equal alternatives to achieve life and I hope Mary Jeanne would be the first of many to get this implausible alternative. 

Goff filming a Malagasy group that depends on the ocean as a life supply – Photograph by Andrea Ferrari

7. Why is saving the ocean necessary to you?

Saving the ocean is essential to me and to all of us as a result of the ocean is our life supply! I come from a Vezo fishing group and I do know that they would be the first individuals to endure if the well being of our oceans doesn't enhance. It's as much as all of us to fight the threats to our ocean. 

Saving the ocean is saving ourselves and future generations.

padi torchbearer michele strogoff goff filming underwater
Goff filming for the Daughters of the Deep – Photograph by Andrea Ferrari

eight. Should you might ask scuba divers all over the world to take one motion to assist save the ocean, what wouldn't it be?

As scuba divers we're so lucky that we get to expertise the underwater world first hand. So many individuals don't expertise this themselves as they cannot dive. I really feel it's our obligation as divers to inform and to point out individuals about not solely the wonders of the ocean but in addition the various threats dealing with these marine ecosystems.  Allow them to understand how a lot we depend on a wholesome ocean and the modifications that we're seeing and remind them while people are sometimes the issue we're additionally the answer. 

Michel ‘Goff’ Strogoff: Madagascar Movie & Images Portfolio