Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has given a $3 million grant to conservation organization Oceana for the protection of sharks and other marine life. The money donated by Oscar-nominated DiCaprio’s foundation will be used over a three year period, Oceana said.
The rationale behind the funding is to help the conservation organization promote responsible fishing while safeguarding sharks and other marine life in the process. It also marks the second act of generosity carried out by DiCaprio in recent months. DiCaprio’s cash injection will address the problems caused by the drift gill nets used to catch swordfish. The problem is they often catch other marine life – the term is “bycatch.” Now DiCaprio has joined the cause by giving a $3 million shark protection grant.
Gill nets also target thresher sharks and other seafood attractive to humans and are cast off of Southern California. About a mile long in diameter, the controversial nets used mainly by commercial fishermen end up snaring and killing whales, sharks, sea lions, elephant seals and sea turtles, among other non-targeted sea life. In late 2013, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation handed $3 million to the World Wildlife Fund in order to help double the wild tiger population in Nepal by 2022.
DiCaprio’s generosity and fondness for sharks may come as a surprise to some after his terrifying experience with a great white shark in 2006 when he was filming Blood Diamond in South Africa. A chunk of tuna became stuck at the top of the cage DiCaprio was in and the large shark tried hard to get it. DiCaprio had to flatten out his body to stay out of harm’s way as best he could, but half of the shark’s body went in and out of the cage as it wrestled with its food. Its face was inches from the actor at one point. The Romeo and Juliet star relayed the story on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which airs on NBC in the US. Not only did DiCaprio live to tell the tale on national TV, now he is doing his best to preserve sharks by saving them from straying gill nets.
Oceana chief executive officer Andy Sharpless praised DiCaprio for his lending his support to the cause and said not only would it help protect sharks and marine animals, it would also help a number of the ocean’s habitats, such as in the Pacific and Arctic regions. DiCaprio, whose latest big screen effort is the critically-acclaimed The Wolf of Wall Street – based on a book of the same name – is in good company with Oceana. His fellow actors Ted Danson and Sam Waterston are also active in this space and both are on the board of directors at Ocean. Mad Men star January Jones lends her face to the organization’s “Scared for Sharks” campaign.
So while DiCaprio is making headlines for his character portrayals on the big screen, he is also making headlines for a different reason. He has added his support to Oceana to the tune of a $3 million shark protection grant.
By Robert Shepherd