Mark_Esplin Mark_Esplin

Mark Esplin is a multimedia journalist from the UK currently based in Istanbul. He has strong skills in visual storytelling and reporting and produces news packages as a single operator. Mark is confident in creating and managing all elements in the news process, as his abilities encompass a wide range of skills including video production, video editing, reporting, photojournalism, research, audio and writing. Before moving to Turkey, Mark was in charge of the Video Department for the National English Newspaper of Brunei. While working there, he produced, filmed, and edited daily news packages, transforming the multimedia into the driving force for online engagement and the most viewed content on the website.

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Underwater High: Turkey's Female Free...
Kas
By Mark_Esplin
29 Sep 2014

Kas, Turkey
September 29, 2014

As a child Sahika Ercumen had acute asthma. Her breathing difficulties were so bad that until age twelve she couldn’t do any physical activities and spent most of her time sat at home. Determined to confront her illness she went to her local swimming club and jumped into the water.

To everyone’s surprise Sahika was a natural swimmer. Like many young girls she had imagined life as a mermaid and her newfound love for water ultimately changed her life. “I felt I was diving in another world, in a dream world. It was so relaxing, so nice underwater. I hadn’t played sports until I was 12 years-old because of a sickness, so it was really a miracle for me.”

The swimming coach asked her to hold her breath and swim underwater. In her first attempt she out performed the club professionals and knew she wanted to dedicate her life to the sport. Through intense training, her physical strength improved, as did her immune system, until she was no longer affected by her asthma.

Sahika is now the leading female free diver with six world records including the women’s deepest return dive on a single breath – an astonishing 91 meters.

Sahika also now trains and mentors aspiring new freedivers in workshops in the Turkish coastal town of Kas.

Freediving is an extreme sport in which participants swim for long distances underwater to exceptional depths, or for long periods of time, on a single breath without the use of scuba gear. Unsurprisingly it requires great physical and mental strength as Sahika explains, “After 20-30 meters your lungs are the size of a football, as the pressure increases they get smaller and smaller. By 30-40 meters your lungs are like tennis balls… Your veins too are getting smaller and your heart rate drops. The blood circulation moves to only your heart, brain and vital organs – there’s a big change [to your body].”

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Coral Triangle
Coral Triangle
By Mark_Esplin
10 Jun 2014

The Coral Triangle is one of the world’s most important natural resources. It is an area of ocean that covers 5.4 million km2, where more biodiversity can be found than anywhere else on Earth.

The 3,000+ species of fish, and vast coral reefs, provide livelihoods and food for an estimated 130 million people in the region. Millions more throughout the world also benefit from the bounty of natural resources, provided by the Coral Triangle.

But all is not well in paradise. Scientists, environmentalists, economists and governments, are increasingly worried for the future of this ecosystem. In the last forty years alone, the Coral Triangle has incurred substantial losses of 40% to its reefs and mangroves.

Projections suggest this rate of degradation is likely to continue, or increase into the future. With such significant numbers of people reliant on this natural resource, there is a potential catastrophe of global proportions waiting to happen.

Media created

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Underwater High: Turkey's Female Free...
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
29 Sep 2014

Kas, Turkey
September 29, 2014

As a child Sahika Ercumen had acute asthma. Her breathing difficulties were so bad that until age twelve she couldn’t do any physical activities and spent most of her time sat at home. Determined to confront her illness she went to her local swimming club and jumped into the water.

To everyone’s surprise Sahika was a natural swimmer. Like many young girls she had imagined life as a mermaid and her newfound love for water ultimately changed her life. “I felt I was diving in another world, in a dream world. It was so relaxing, so nice underwater. I hadn’t played sports until I was 12 years-old because of a sickness, so it was really a miracle for me.”

The swimming coach asked her to hold her breath and swim underwater. In her first attempt she out performed the club professionals and knew she wanted to dedicate her life to the sport. Through intense training, her physical strength improved, as did her immune system, until she was no longer affected by her asthma.

Sahika is now the leading female free diver with six world records including the women’s deepest return dive on a single breath – an astonishing 91 meters, shown in this video.

Freediving is an extreme sport in which participants swim for long distances underwater to exceptional depths, or for long periods of time, on a single breath without the use of scuba gear. Unsurprisingly it requires great physical and mental strength as Sahika explains, “After 20-30 meters your lungs are the size of a football, as the pressure increases they get smaller and smaller. By 30-40 meters your lungs are like tennis balls… Your veins too are getting smaller and your heart rate drops. The blood circulation moves to only your heart, brain and vital organs – there’s a big change [to your body].”

In this video Sahika Ercumen takes us deep underwater during a training session in the water off the beautiful town of Kas, along Turkey’s southern Antalya coast.

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Freediving kas turkey 11
Kas
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

Sahika Ercumen instructs students during a breathing workshop in Kas, Southern turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 12
Kas
By Mark_Esplin
28 Sep 2014

Free dive enthusiasts check out the action below as they wait their turn to dive during a workshop lead by Sahika Ercumen.

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Freediving kas turkey 09
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
29 Sep 2014

Free Diving record holder Sahika Ercumen surfaces after a training dive out at sea near Kas in Antalya, Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 07
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
29 Sep 2014

Free Diving world record holder Sahika Ercumen during a training dive in Kas, Antalya, Southern Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 06
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

Though well known throughout Turkey, Kas remains less popular with foreign tourists than the near-by towns of Bodrum and Antalya city.

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Freediving kas turkey 05
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

A student laughs during a breathing workshop lead by free diving record holder Sahika Ercumen in Kas, Antalya, Southern Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 04
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

Sahika Ercumen teaches breathing exercises during a free diving workshop in Kas, Antalya, Southern Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 03
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

A student relaxes during a yoga session as part of a free diving workshop lead by Sahika Ercumen in Kas, Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 02
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
27 Sep 2014

Free Diving world record holder Sahika Ercumen leads a breathing workshop in Kas, Antalya, Southern Turkey.

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Freediving kas turkey 01
Kas, Turkey
By Mark_Esplin
30 Sep 2014

Kaputas beach is one of Kas' main tourist attractions due to the colour of its beautiful warm water and pleasant sandy beach.

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Esplin120709_2330.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

The majority of people within the Coral Triangle are living in poverty. This increases the social and economic importance of reefs, and reduces their ability to adapt to depleting fish supplies.

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Esplin120709_2349.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

Hook and line fishing techniques are seen as a solution compared to large scale commercial methods like trawler nets, that are considered dramatically unsustainable. Commercial fishing is having a drastic impact on fish stocks around the globe. Populations of targeted species such as Bluefin Tuna and Cod have reduced 90% since the 1960s, according to professors at the University of British Columbia.

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Esplin120710_2333.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

Fishers tend to target bigger fish, which act as predators in the food web. Biologists have observed a change in the Philippines' species composition, and an increase of fishing for small oceanic fish – anchovies, etc. This is a good indication of overfishing, and of gradual stock collapse, as fishers can no longer catch larger fish to support themselves.

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Esplin120704_2337.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
04 Jul 2012

According to the Coral Triangle initiative, “The impacts of overfishing and to some extent destructive fishing practices on coral reefs are evident in the biomass of reef associated fish." It is reported that more than 50% of the reef sites in the Philippines assessed are overfished.

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Esplin120710_2336.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
10 Jul 2012

A fisherman wades through the shallows carrying a handful of possessions after a mornings fishing trip.

Attempts to educate fishermen have been made by the environmental community, and attitudes are slowly changing. The Coral Triangle Initiative announced that it saw a decrease in the use of destructive fishing methods in 2012. Although, they stated that other threats such as Population increase, pollution and sedimentation have increased considerably.

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Esplin120705_2345.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
05 Jul 2012

The coral triangle is located in South East Asia and supports 120 million people, across 6 countries, over an area of 1.6 billion acres. Overfishing, pollution, overpopulation and climate change are putting this essential ecosystem in danger.

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Esplin120709_2353.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

A decline in reef biodiversity does not only affect local communities and subsistence fishermen’s food security, though they are likely the hardest hit. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), natural capital contributes significantly to manufacturing and service economies, that in-turn helps stabilise a nations food security. In their report ‘TEEB – The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for National and International Policy Makers’ the UNEP suggest one systemic cause for a lack of local will power to preserve natural resources. “Benefits depend on local stewardship, local knowledge and, in some cases, foregoing opportunities for economic development – yet people on the ground often receive little or no payment for the services they help to generate. This can make it more economically attractive to exploit the resource rather than preserve assets of global worth.”

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Esplin120705_2344.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
05 Jul 2012

The coral triangle is located in South East Asia and supports 120 million people, across 6 countries, over an area of 1.6 billion acres. Overfishing, pollution, overpopulation and climate change are putting this essential ecosystem in danger.

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Esplin120709_2351.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

A fisherman prepares his line in a small wooden shack as his daughter plays behind. Surrounded by sublime tropical waters, the 7,000+ island shorelines of the Philippines are home to 40 million people - 45% of its population.

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Esplin120709_2350.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

Hook and line fishing techniques are seen as a solution compared to large scale commercial methods like trawler nets, that are considered dramatically unsustainable. Commercial fishing is having a drastic impact on fish stocks around the globe. Populations of targeted species such as Bluefin Tuna and Cod have reduced 90% since the 1960s, according to professors at the University of British Columbia.

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Esplin120709_2347.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

It is not only coral reefs that are affected by global warming. Other important environments, such as mangrove forests and sea grass beds, which provide habitats for hundreds of thousands of fish species and other organisms, are also threatened. Further destruction and loss to these domains will have profound effects on the productivity of costal regions and the lives of people reliant on them.

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Esplin120709_2332.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

Most threats to the reefs are anthropogenic, and can therefore be changed. Reefs may even be able to recover, or at least survive, despite all the hazards, if climate change does not occur as predicted.

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Esplin120709_2331.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

The Philippines Government admits that all targeted species in the Philippines are showing signs of overfishing. Officials also recognise that the current approach to fishing is unsustainable. “Overall, the harvest rate of Philippine fisheries is approximately 30 percent higher than the maximum sustainable yield, which will likely trigger stock collapses in the absence of increased management.” (Department of Environment and Natural Resources)

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Esplin120704_2339.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
04 Jul 2012

Government statistics suggest that in one year 1,370 tons of coral trout alone were exported, creating revenues of US$140 million. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) disputes this figure; suggesting high incidences of illegal and unreported trafficking, significantly expand the official records. They go on to state relaxed trade agreements are one of the leading factors creating additional demand on the Philippines reefs resources.

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Esplin120620_2327.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
20 Jun 2012

Children play in a harbour in the Southern Philippines. Scientists have predicted that by 2100, global temperature rise could result in the extinction of coral in the Coral Triangle. This would lead to an 80% reduction in regional food production.

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Esplin120704_2338.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
04 Jul 2012

Government statistics suggest that in one year 1,370 tons of coral trout alone were exported, creating revenues of US$140 million. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) disputes this figure; suggesting high incidences of illegal and unreported trafficking, significantly expand the official records. They go on to state relaxed trade agreements are one of the leading factors creating additional demand on the Philippines reefs resources.

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Esplin120705_2343.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
05 Jul 2012

Tourist diving boats float above a reef in the North-East Philippines. Such tours can have a devastating impact on the health of reefs as participants inevitably kick or displace coral formations. The excess pollution caused by nearby hotels and resorts are an often unseen yet leading factor to the decline of a reefs health.

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Esplin120705_2388.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
05 Jul 2012

The coral triangle is located in South East Asia and supports 120 million people, across 6 countries, over an area of 1.6 billion acres. Overfishing, pollution, overpopulation and climate change are putting this essential ecosystem in danger.

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Esplin120622_2389.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
22 Jun 2012

The cultivation of kelp and seaweed for pharmaceutical industries is being developed by some communities as an alternative source of income to prevent an over reliance of fishing for an income, thereby reducing the stress on local fish populations.

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Esplin120709_2386.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

Government figures state that 67% of animal protein in the Philippines is comprised of fish and fish products. This makes fish the nations most important food source, next to rice.

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Esplin120623_2381.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
23 Jun 2012

A fisherman farms abalone instead of heading out to sea to fish. Communities throughout the Philippines are being encouraged to seek alternative sources of income from fishing. According to the WWF, “The decreased productivity of coastal ecosystems will reduce the food resources and income available to coastal communities in the Coral Triangle. By 2050, coastal ecosystems will only be able to provide 50% of the fish protein that they do today, leading to increasing pressure on coastal agriculture and aquaculture.”

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Esplin120619_2387.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
19 Jun 2012

A child helps sort the catch on a small fishing vessel in the Southern Philippines. With nine percent of the total global reef cover, its national waters provide significant annual fish yield. Increasingly, fish catch are being sold for export, with China and Hong Kong the primary destination.
There is a billion-dollar enterprise in the Asia-Pacific region for live reef food fish trade (LRRFFT). The Philippines is a significant contributor to this industry.

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Esplin120709_2382.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
09 Jul 2012

The threats to the Coral Triangle are numerous, and often vary from site to site. As such there is not a single answer to the problems faced by these ecosystems. Nevertheless, wide ranges of solutions are being adopted in an attempt to curb this degradation. These include: Marine Protected areas (MPA), gear restrictions, and catch regulations.

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Esplin120630_2390.jpg
coral triangle
By Mark_Esplin
30 Jun 2012

The coral triangle is located in South East Asia and supports 120 million people, across 6 countries, over an area of 1.6 billion acres. Overfishing, pollution, overpopulation and climate change are putting this essential ecosystem in danger.

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Esplin120705_2380.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
05 Jul 2012

The coral triangle is located in South East Asia and supports 120 million people, across 6 countries, over an area of 1.6 billion acres. Overfishing, pollution, overpopulation and climate change are putting this essential ecosystem in danger.

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Esplin120707_2383.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
07 Jul 2012

According to the WWF, “The decreased productivity of coastal ecosystems will reduce the food resources and income available to coastal communities in the Coral Triangle. By 2050, coastal ecosystems will only be able to provide 50% of the fish protein that they do today, leading to increasing pressure on coastal agriculture and aquaculture.”

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Esplin120711_2385.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
11 Jul 2012

The rate of ocean acidification is expected to accelerate in the near future. Since the industrial revolution, ocean acidification has increased by 30%. Scientists believe that this rate is faster than anything previously experienced over the last 55 million years.

The problem is that even a mild change in PH levels has significant impact on animals with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons. They literally dissolve. Affected animals include krill and plankton as well as coral. This means that the bottom of the food web could potentially become extinct, and in turn so could fish, according to Zoologist Kent Carpenter: "If corals themselves are at risk of extinction and do in fact go extinct, that will most probably lead to a cascade effect where we will lose thousands and thousands of other species that depend on coral reefs.”

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Esplin120618_2379.jpg
By Mark_Esplin
18 Jun 2012

A Filipino fisherman wears a mask to protect against the sun as he spends the morning catching octopus from a small canoe. Though largely seen as being sustainable, subsistence fishermen with a hook and line can still have an impact on their local ecology. Jared Diamond, an ecological anthropologist, claims the common belief that indigenous people conserve their resources is wrong. He writes that historically when people encounter the limits of their resources, catastrophe results.