Next week on Thursday evening (the night of the 30th, at 7pm) you will be able to attend the premier of a new documentary about Majorca’s stingray population. The short film is called “A Ray of Light, 2”, it’s the sequel to “A Ray of Light” which was made a couple of years ago by a then emerging film maker, David Diley. His subject was the efforts of a local resident of Majorca, dive teacher Brad Roberston, to improve and conserve Majorca’s marine environment and its population. “A Ray Of Light” went from a standing start to 100,000 views online and changed both Brad’s and David’s lives for the better. I spoke to David Diley this week.
“What seems like forever ago, Brad and I had talked about a project he had come up with, a survey to find out more about the yearly appearance in the Bay of Palma, of big numbers of Stingrays, many of which we have since discovered, were heavily pregnant. The concept being that he could set up a Stingray survey, utilising volunteers from the yachting community alongside divers and try to understand this annual aggregation more, how big the numbers are, why they’re there and maybe even where are they coming from and going to after they leave?
“This was a monumental undertaking from the get go because there was no money, no real support from government except from our ever-present and always super cool friend, Gabriel Morey. We talked about how, in order to get people interested in protecting the Stingrays, we would first need to know a lot more about them and their yearly visits to the Bay of Palma. Anyway, long story short, a few months later, Brad emailed to tell me it was up and running and he was conducting surveys with a small handful of divers.
“I had been working like a dog for two years solid and figured I needed a holiday. I had been planning on going over to stay with Brad and his wife Bea anyway and then one night, I had the idea of shooting a short film about the project but not the usual “… this is bad, look at these horrible images of dead things, we’re all gonna die” type, more of an engaging story about the very, very rare breed of people who sacrifice, sacrifice and sacrifice all for a cause they believe is worth fighting for. So, my “holiday” turned into a film shoot and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Brad was spending all his own money on the surveys, losing working days, burning through fuel like there was no tomorrow, using all his own gear and surviving on about three hours sleep a night, I paid for the production of the film entirely out of my own pocket and battles with bureaucracy were a daily occurrence. We needed to inspire people to care about an animal which just isn’t as inspiring as sharks or tigers or as easily marketable as whales and dolphins. The issue here was that we had what was a complete oddity in the Med, a healthy population of a marine creature, so we figured we should do what we can to maintain those healthy numbers and use it as a reason as to why marine protected areas in the Mediterranean, especially those around the Balearics, are so important.
“The results of that holiday, A Ray Of Light, took us by surprise in the level of success it attained: it headlined various film festivals around the world and has been viewed in 151 countries to date! So I’d always intended to do a sequel because the reaction to Brad and his work was overwhelmingly positive, indeed, as more people saw the film, the level of support for Brad’s work increased to the stage where he was able to raise sponsorship to start Asociación Ondine, which became an official non-profit, grassroots marine conservation organisation based on the island.”
But what’s the big deal about stingrays? With their round, flat bodies and undulating wings and their close relationship to sharks, which are some of the sea’s greatest predators, stingrays may fit some people’s definition of “exotic.” Yet stingrays exist worldwide, from freshwater rivers to the open oceans. No matter what habitat they occupy, an analysis of the creatures that they eat and the organisms that eat them suggests they have an important role to play in the ecosystems they inhabit. Research has established stingrays of every variety as upper-level predators, meaning that they hunt and consume other animals, even those that consume other organisms themselves. Their foods of choice include molluscs, crabs, small fishes, and worms. Although stingrays often are listed as top-level predators, hunted by no other creatures, it has been established that some sharks and large fish eat stingrays and they have a positive effect on their environment, which means it is a very good thing they are in the waters around Majorca.
“I don’t want to give too much away but A Ray of Light II is a longer film (29 minutes) much less retrospective with a first person insight into Asociación Ondine’s biggest conservation project to date. It focuses on the effects the first film had on Brad’s life and conservation on the island, the growth of Asociación Ondine, and the huge changes to Brad’s personal life and also confronts the challenges and more controversial aspects of marine conservation in Majorca. Where the first was something of a vignette, the sequel is a more rounded, documentary style film which asks the difficult questions and gives the important answers. In short, I am really, really proud of it.”
A Ray of Light II gets its full premiere at Palma Aquarium on Thursday October 30th, where they will also be screening the first film. Marine biologist and Vice President of Asociacion Ondine, Gabriel Morey will be giving details of findings of the Stingray Survey to date. David, Brad and Gabril will also be doing a Q&A session afterwards. The event is free. Doors open at 7pm.
By Vicki McLeod