They Call Me the Shark Lady

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at 11:23 AM PST

Women Dressed up in Shark Outfit Giving a TalkIn 2015, Andrea Richey, ’90, had been living in Hong Kong for over 25 years and had experienced working in corporate communications and human resources for a Wall Street law firm. She was working as a legal recruiter when she was suddenly faced with the personal tragedy of the passing of her father and her mother suffering a heart attack three months later. “After my father passed away, I started pondering the meaning of life,” said Richey. 

“After some reflection, I decided that changing jobs and making money wasn’t going to change my state of mind,” said Richey. So, Richey decided that she would start giving back to her community. “I looked into a lot of different organizations and volunteered at several of them. But, the Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF) was the one that stuck with me. I realized that while living in Hong Kong I had been actively contributing to the problem that this foundation was fighting,” said Richey. 

There are a 100 million sharks killed annually and the shark population has dropped by over 90% in the last 30 years. While this is a global problem, the reality is that after HKSF did a survey in 2016, we found that 98% of Chinese seafood restaurants in Hong Kong served shark fin soup. In Asian culture, shark fin soup is seen as a status symbol. Andrea was at geographic epicenter of the problem and felt that she could, through education, help to be the change for a more just and humane world. As the Executive Director of the HK Shark Foundation, Andrea has presented to over 10,000 students in both local and international in schools across Hong Kong to raise awareness about shark conservation. “I think of myself as a farmer. I know that if I plant the idea of sharks as an important resource to the future of our ecosystem and world, these students will grow up knowing more than their parents did and make better decisions. Our results are slow, but definitive. HKSF is making progress and educating people to say NO to shark fin soup,” said Richey.  

Through this work “I realized that I could be a big part of the solution by stopping the exploitation and unsustainable practice of killing sharks for profit. Being mindful and practicing mindfulness has been one of my keys to happiness,” says Richey. While she has focused her efforts on elementary students thus far, Andrea has set her sights on educating corporations on the benefits of shark conservation in 2020 and expanding the reach of Hong Kong Shark Foundation beyond Hong Kong.  

Watch her TEDxCUHK video and find out more about the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, its conservation efforts and how you can support saving the sharks.