'Whaling is barbaric – it's just wrong'
Stop Whaling campaign
Next week presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff will abseil 100ft down the Avon Gorge to raise money for the campaign to stop whaling. She talks to Suzanne Savill about her passion for marine conservation
Miranda Krestov- nikoff has become a familiar face on the nation's television screens as a regular presenter on BBC programmes Coast and The One Show.
It's hardly surprising. Blonde, pretty, articulate and an expert diver, she is surely a director's dream.
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However, any viewer who presumes that she is some easy-on-the eye auto-cutie who reads a scripted piece to camera and then heads home to a London flat could not be more wrong.
Miranda – who has also presented on the BBC's Hidden Treasure and on the Channel 4 series Wreck Detectives – does not merely host wildlife items on television.
She is passionate about the subject, and next weekend will be taking part in a mass abseil down the Avon Gorge to help raise money for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society's Stop Whaling campaign.
And far from being a singleton based in the capital, she is married with two children, and lives in a village on the outskirts of Bristol.
Everything about 28-year- old Miranda's home and garden reflects her devotion to her family, and her dedication to wildlife and conservation.
"I'm a diver, and I'm passionate about the marine environment," she declares.
We are sitting in her kitchen, with its enormous French windows overlooking the garden, which is dominated by a huge pool stretching almost the width of the house (and which also has its own wooden pontoon).
It turns out that the pool used to be a tennis court. Miranda explains: "There are public tennis courts in the village and we thought we'd get more use out of a pool."
Most people might have decided to install a modern swimming pool, but Miranda and her husband Nicholas, who runs a publishing company, decided they wanted a natural pool.
"A swimming pool has to be chlorinated, which isn't good for wildlife," Miranda says.
"Here in our pool we have frogs and toads and dragonflies, and we used to have water lilies until the fish ate them. In the evenings swifts fly overhead, and also bats.
"We swim in it whenever we can – it's about six-feet deep in places. Some people think the water isn't clean, but it is perfectly safe to swim in. The kids go into the water in their wetsuits and have a great time."
Miranda is getting ready to take her children – Amèlie, five, and Oliver, two – to swimming lessons once our interview has finished.
Her own passion for swimming and diving has been an integral part of her television career. Can she remember learning to swim as a child?
She replies: "I've been swimming for as long as I can remember. When I was a child our next-door neighbours had a swimming pool and I was always swimming in it.
"I've always been a water baby. I just feel very relaxed in water – very calm and at home. My favourite form of exercise is swimming, and I love diving. I just jump into the water and I feel incredibly relaxed.
"There's something really special about swimming underwater.
"You can stand on a cliff looking out to sea and you have no idea what is happening underneath the water – there's this whole hidden world.
"Then when you dive in, it's like entering a secret place that you have been allowed into, and I feel very privileged.
"The kids are too young to go diving, but I'm going to get them in the water as soon as they're old enough. They can start learning when they are eight, and can go diving on their own when they are 14."
Miranda attended Bristol University, and while she was there began doing some work for the BBC's Natural History Unit in the city.
After graduating she got a job with the unit, and worked her way up from runner to researcher, and then got a job presenting for Fox Television in America – where she was able to put her diving skills to use.
"I didn't even think about combining diving and presenting," she says.
"It started when I was working for Fox, and they gave me a diving mask that you can speak in, and it all went from there."
Over the years Miranda has become a familiar face on television – often in a diving wetsuit – and is now using her celebrity status to help the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).
She is a patron for the charity and next week will take part in an abseil down the Avon Gorge that has been organised by the WDCS.
"I've been a member of the WDCS almost since they started back in the Eighties, and I very much enjoy being actively involved in their work as a patron," she says. "I did a skydive for them a few months ago, and I abseiled to raise money for them last year.
"I'm really looking forward to taking part again this year. It's really good fun.
"Lots of people come along, and you don't have to be sporty. It's something that can be enjoyed by all ages. There was even a little boy of about 10 who took part last year.
"We're hoping to highlight the WDCS campaign against whaling, and to raise awareness that commercial whaling is happening even though it is banned, because Japan, Norway and Iceland have found ways around it.
"It's a barbaric practice, and I can't believe it's going on in this day and age.
"People need to be aware of what is happening, and the WDCS is campaigning to get a change in legislation
"It's just wrong. We can't call ourselves civilised human beings given what we do to other living creatures.
"It's so unnecessary because the market for whale meat is diminishing every year – yet the Japanese still go out killing thousands of whales every year on the grounds that they are catching the whales for research."
Miranda is also enthusiastic about dolphins, which she once swum with in the Bahamas. "One of the best things I've ever done in my life is swimming with wild dolphins. There's something behind their eyes – they're so enquiring and intelligent," she says.
"Some young dolphins started to play with us. They were picking up bits of seaweed and tossing then to us and seeing how we'd react.
"I think there's something about dolphins that touches something in us. Maybe it's our aquatic ancestry.
"I took the children to see Fungi the Dolphin on the Dingle peninsula in the west of Ireland last year.
"Oliver wasn't talking much then, but when Fungi came out of the water and all the children were shouting 'Fungi! Fungi!' and Oliver was going: 'Fungi dollpin, Fungi dollpin'... That was very special."
The children are in evidence all around the house, which is very much a family home. There are children's paintings on the fridge, a lunchbox and beaker on the kitchen table, toys in various places, and balloons hanging from a chair.
"We've lived here for six years and we love it here," says Miranda.
"We don't have to get into the car for everything. I can cycle into Bristol, and I walk the children to a lot of their activities, and Oliver's nursery is in the village.
"When we came here it was completely neglected. Wildlife had taken over and there were snails and flies all over the place, so it's been a lot of work to make it how it is now."
Miranda's husband Nicholas – who is a second-generation Russian – works from home, and Miranda says this has made her presenting career possible.
"I don't really think I could do what I do if Nicholas didn't do what he does," she says.
"I wouldn't want to have a nanny looking after my children all the time.
"I think it's nice to have your mum at home when you're a child, but if that's not possible then it's good to have one parent at home, to be there when they get up in the morning and to tuck them into bed at night.
"I think that sort of stability is especially important when they're little – and they're not young for long."
The sponsored abseil in aid of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society's Stop Whaling campaign takes place on Sunday, February 6, in the Avon Gorge.
No previous experience is needed and all equipment and instruction is provided.
The abseil will be down a cliff of approximately 100ft, and is suitable for people of all abilities and fitness levels.
The cost is £35 per person, payable on booking, and participants are also required to raise a minimum of £250 in sponsorship.
Last year's sponsored abseil in the Avon Gorge raised more than £10,000 for the WDCS. The money is used to support the continuing campaign to ban whaling.
To register to take part in the abseil, or for further details, go to www.wdcs.org/uk.
Both commercial whaling and the international trade in whale products are currently banned.
However, Japan, Norway and Iceland together kill about 2,000 whales every year.
This is because the International Whaling Commission (IWC) currently allows Norway to hunt under an "objection" to the ban.
Japan uses a loophole which allows countries to hunt for "research purposes".
Iceland is allowed to break the ban also because it left the IWC in 1992 but was allowed to rejoined 10 years later under a "reservation".
More than 30,000 whales have been killed since the ban came into force in 1986.
Those killed are fin, minke, Bryde's, sei, humpback and sperm whales.
Danny Groves, spokesman for the WDCS, said the three countries were currently expanding their international trade in whale products.
"There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea, and there is no scientific certainty about the ability of whale populations to withstand hunting in the face of growing environmental threats including climate change," he said.
"To cap it all, the meat they are taking is just frozen in stockpiles because there is a shrinking market for it.
"It was revealed only a few weeks ago that Japan's stockpiles of frozen meat are at their biggest ever, at more than 6,000 tons."