Underwater cameraman and storyteller Steve Hathaway is a marine enthusiast with a relentless drive to teach young people about the ocean.
After almost 20 years as a builder, Steve quit to pursue his dream of telling underwater stories. He has since supplied footage for documentaries on BBC, TVNZ, National Geographic and Discovery TV, and won a BAFTA with the camera crew of the One Ocean episode of Blue Planet 2.
In 2012, Steve created the Young Ocean Explorers programme, which has included 20 episodes for the What Now children’s television show. The programme aims to educate children about the ocean and marine conservation.
Steve says he got in to educating kids by accident. He watched his daughter present her video on ocean plastics to a class of 10-year-olds and saw that the children in the audience were silent and spellbound for seven minutes straight. That’s when he realised he should produce content for a young audience.
“I’ve been looking at doing an underwater TV show for 20 years but the best idea has been under my roof.”
In 2015, Steve co-authored and self-published a YOE book and then, in 2017, things really took off when he and daughter Riley created the YOE website.
Presented by Riley and produced in conjunction with Greenstone TV, the free-access website is intended to inspire children and adults to care for the ocean – and act to protect the ocean. Steve’s mission is to inspire people to practice kaitiakitanga over the marine world, and turn that sense of guardianship in to action.
“I used to be sceptical of some of the science; you know, I was a hardcore spearfisherman…”
But through his work as a cameraman he met scientists and ocean experts who convinced him.
“The more I heard, the more I wanted to learn.”
He focuses on inspiring children to become ocean conservationists, because he believes if young people can be inspired to become advocates for the environment, the oceans will be healthier. He aims to educate, motivate and activate this generation of “environmental natives”, recognising that children are often the driving force behind environmental changes in the home, and educating their parents.
The website features educational videos, quizzes, polls and resources in English and Te Reo Maori. It has proved to be a very popular tool for thousands of New Zealand teachers, featuring resources they can use with confidence in lessons about the marine world.
Steve runs professional development sessions for teachers and attends dozens of schools each year. Last year alone he gave presentations to over 30,000 primary and intermediate students and 1700 teachers.
External evaluation of YOE showed the website inspired children to pick up rubbish and use alternatives to plastic. Following contact with the YOE programme, children reported spending their spare time creating reusable bags, cleaning up waterways and helping at recycling centres.
Steve’s talents are many but it’s his gift for inspiring young people to advocate for ocean environments that has made the YOE programmes such a success.
His dream is that this emerging generation of New Zealanders – and the many people who access the website internationally – will be engaged with the ocean, understand the issues facing the marine environment, and be able to put kaitiakitanga in to practice to protect it.
“A lot of people in New Zealand don’t realise how special it is underneath our surface. My aim is to bring the underwater story of New Zealand into the Kiwi story, inspiring a generation of New Zealanders who want to put on a mask and snorkel and go and explore something that’s just as unique as what we have on the land.” Steve has had a long association with BLAKE. He was the underwater cameraman for the inaugural Young BLAKE Expedition to the Kermadec Islands, was a BLAKE dream team leader for three years, and is on the board of the Sir Peter Blake Marine Education and Recreation Centre.