Since 1000 B.C., legends of mermaids have circled the globe. From the Middle East to Asia, Africa and Europe, diverse cultures have all had their own folklore about these guardians of the sea. Enamored with the beauty of these mystical creatures, Hannah Fraser has dedicated her life to becoming a real-life mermaid and is on a mission to protect her fellow marine animals through art activism.
Known as Hannah Mermaid, this Australian millennial was the first woman to make a career out of being a professional mermaid. Since 2003, she has toured all over the world, having done countless commercials, advertisements, and even held residencies at the Atlantis Resort and Hotel in the Bahamas and the Siam Aquarium in Bangkok, Thailand.
Hannah tells MiLLENNiAL that while she was enjoying the natural beauty of the ocean, she was confronted with the harsh reality of its rapid degradation. “It became imperative to me that if I wanted to enjoy this incredible blessing of the world, I had to step up and do something myself and be accountable as a human being.” This is when Hannah turned to ocean activism and decided to become a bridge between humans and the sea, communicating environmental issues through artistic expression.
Protecting the Seas Through Action
After a “transformative and powerful” experience with humpback whales in 2006, Hannah made it her life’s purpose to ensure the safety of all cetaceans. It was after this experience that she decided to travel to the dolphin “killing cove” in Taiji, Japan in 2007 where she co-organized a “surfer’s memorial” with her then pro-surfer husband, Dave Rastovich. Bringing Hollywood actresses Hayden Panettiere and Isabel Lucas on board in addition to 40 other artists, musicians, and activists, Hannah and her team swam out into the cove and sat in front of poaching fisherman, protecting the scared dolphins.
While they weren’t successful in stopping the killings, they did manage to get dolphin taken off the school lunch menu in Japan, and even made it into the final scene of the Academy Award-Winning Documentary The Cove. Her work in Taiji was one of the first actions to bring international attention to the inhumane dolphin killings that occur in Japan every year.
Most recently, Hannah co-produced a short film on the importance of Manta Rays with filmmaker Shawn Heinrichs. The two went to Hawaii to capture the amazing bond between humans and animals, highlighting the threat of extinction of manta rays from the gill raking trade. Their intention was to take the film to the UN Convention of International Trade on Endangered Species, a delegation for Heads of State that only takes place once every three years.
The video was released two weeks before the convention met, going viral worldwide, before showing it at the delegation. To make the matter even more pressing, Heinrichs in conjunction with Manta Ray of Hope were able to create an installation of a massive blowup manta ray that caught the attention of every attendee. The goal was to encourage the delegates to put the Manta Ray on the protected species list.
“Everybody said that was an impossibility because they aren’t a popular animal,” Hannah tells us, but remarkably, “80 percent of the delegates stood up in favor of putting the manta rays on the protected list, which was the highest number of support for any animal in the delegation.” The minister of Thailand, a representative of a country who has been killing manta rays for years, even went so far as to give a speech in support of the endangered species.
Hannah Mermaid Petitions the World to Stop Marine Killings
The U.N. Convention breakthrough led her to act on other national petitions. “If you can put the right legislation in place then you can start the direct action for policing it in local areas and they are backed up by the law.” She points out the work of hardline activists, Sea Shepard, an organization that goes after whale hunters in Japan. The group often faces legal issues from the Japanese government because whaling is technically legal in that part of the world. If it were made illegal, the Sea Shepard would be taken much more seriously for policing an illegal activity.
“We need the backup of the laws so that we can then enact the actions,” she says. “The only real way to change [the situation] is to change legislation. Awareness is important because if people are not aware they can’t find those petitions and put pressure onto the politicians that make these decisions.”
Fighting for what she believes is right, Hannah has also helped put together an extensive petition for the Australian government to stop shark culling. She took the petition to the Environmental Protection Agency when they were making a decision to determine if shark culling was going to remain legal. She informs us, “The political pressure of everyone petitioning against that, stopped the decision from going through.” Her work reflects her adamant stance, “we have to work through very top agencies down….the laws need to change…awareness is just as important as actually getting out there and doing it.”
The more educated the public becomes on issues that affect our wellbeing, the more they can use their purchasing power to voice their opinions. “We can make choices in what we buy as consumers that will absolutely change the laws. Because if there is no demand there won’t be the practice,” Hannah enforces.
Although being a mermaid may seem like an untraditional way of presenting activism, Hannah assures us, “Whatever I can do to bring awareness in a way that is also bringing beauty and showing the contrast is my particular way of working with that energy.” And to take it a step further, she even donates a portion of her income to various oceanic charities, including Oceania, Sea Shepard, Surfers for Cetaceans, and Blue Sphere Foundation among others.