Local mermaid craze

Shona Catlin was a stay at home mother of two until a mermaid-themed birthday party she threw for her oldest daughter, Kayla, provided her with the perfect entrepreneurial opportunity.

Catlin, the owner of Mermaid Barbados and a professional mermaid swimming instructor, sat down with Barbados TODAY after one of her Saturday classes to explain how the business started, its impact on the local marine life, and the value of the unique service to Barbados’ tourism product.

Shona Catlin and her daughter Kayla Catlin.

Her idea for the business was sparked by her daughter’s request for a mermaid party in November 2016.

“We had it at the beach. We had mermaids and you would not believe the amount of the attention that it garnered; it was unreal. Tourists were asking to come and take photos with the mermaid, parents were asking me if I could plan their party, and I jokingly said that I should turn this into a business and do this for a living. From there, my family was just like ‘why not?’” she recounted.

Just two months later, the business became a reality,

“It started off with my family encouraging me to be a kid’s party planner, but when I looked at the numbers it just didn’t make sense. It made more sense to turn it into a tourism product and so I sat down with Cheryl Carter, a family friend of mine who works at the Barbados Tourism Authority, and she explained to me how [Barbados’] tourism products work, how I needed to offer commission to activity desks, and the importance of having it online so tourists can book and plan ahead.

“In essence, she was the one who helped me with everything I needed to transition from kids parties into the tourism product that I wanted it to be,” Catlin said.

Between November and December, she worked aggressively on getting vendor rights for Barbados territory from Mertailor, one of the largest mermaid tail manufacturers in the world. A short time later – in January – Mermaid Barbados was officially launched.

The business initially offered photo shoots, mermaid parties and shark fins before it expanded to fin fit (a core exercise class) and now offers locals and tourists the opportunity to swim with “mermaids” at the shipwreck in Carlisle Bay.

Mermaid Barbados also teamed up with marine biologist Nikola Simpson.

“Our name on Instagram is Mermaid Barbados and Nikola’s name on Instagram is Barbados Mermaid, and I saw her work and what she was doing regarding marine life and ocean conservation and I wanted to incorporate it into Mermaid Barbados,” stated Catlin.

Marine Biologist Nikola Simpson

Simpson, who joined the conversation after her weekly fin fit class, told Barbados TODAY that she recognized the educational opportunity in the mermaid superheroes theme.

“I actually just gave Shona some little posters and cards and what she did at her parties and photo shoots was she told them ‘if you want to be a mermaid you have to be an ocean ambassador or an ocean defender and protect the ocean’. It was all part of trying to encourage kids to not use straws or plastic bags and clean up after themselves, whilst educating them on their role,” she said.

Saying that getting those messages across was crucial, Simpson added: “The ocean is so important to us, beyond tourism. Every breath we take, the oxygen, marine plants in the ocean are producing that, and currently there are so many threats that by 2050, if we don’t do anything about the plastic problem, there is going to be more plastic in the sea than fish.”

Simpson has worked on several projects involving sharks, turtles, whales and other marine animals, and she has seen the effects of the bad practices.

“I’ve been testing fish and even turtles. A lot of them have plastics in their stomach and they are dying. It’s actually quite scary because it goes down the food chain and a lot of us eat fish, so if you’re eating fish you’re probably eating plastics too,” Simpson noted, stressing that her intention is not to scare people but to make them more aware.

“When you add a mermaid tail to all that information and tell children that they are superheroes and they are protecting turtles, they remember and then you hear the children saying ‘mummy, don’t use that straw’, which is great,” she said.

Another aspect of the initiative – the introduction of swimming with a mermaid – is also aimed at helping turtles, Simpson explained.

“Our turtles bring a lot of tourism, but by feeding them so much we are killing them. So, instead of swimming with turtles, we want to offer tourists the opportunity to swim with mermaids or be a mermaid at the shipwreck.”

The business is giving back in many ways, with five per cent of its mermaid tails profits being donated to a non-profit ocean conservation charity and assisting Synchro Barbados, a synchronized swimming team/club.

Catlin has also agreed to fundraising efforts such as shows in mermaid tails for tourists, hotels and special events, in an effort to get the Synchro Barbados team to more international competitions.

26 Responses to Local mermaid craze

  1. Nicole Foster
    Nicole Foster April 25, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Jordan. ..best pose of all

  2. Maria Leclair Dasilva
    Maria Leclair Dasilva April 25, 2017 at 10:23 am

    F Y I…These are banned in some countries due to them being unsafe. They should be banned world wide. Google for more information on the dangers causing deaths. It is only a craze till someone drowns!

    • Mermaid Barbados
      Mermaid Barbados April 25, 2017 at 10:41 am

      hi Maria, i just wanted to say that safety is our #1 priority. all participants have to pass a swim safety test before using the tail in the water and participants are supervised at all times. For those not mermaid tail ready we offer photoshoots on land that do not require any swimming. we use Fin Fun mermaid tails for swimming which are the safest tails on the market. They meet the Child Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) requirements for the USA (as well as Australian ACCC requirements). FIN FUN uses only the highest quality, lightweight, stretchable materials that allow mermaids & mer-sharks to have fun without weighing them down.

    • Judith Hebson
      Judith Hebson April 25, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Well defended, all the very best, yr doing a fun but yet useful if u donating some money to charity, some people always got to find fault!! Good luck

    • Paige Lorraine
      Paige Lorraine April 25, 2017 at 11:42 am

      Mermaid Barbados CONGRATULATIONS!!

    • Maria Leclair Dasilva
      Maria Leclair Dasilva April 25, 2017 at 11:46 am

      Hi Mermaid Barbados, I am pleased to hear safety is your #1 priority, so is mine, this is why I brought the issue of safety to your attention as well as everyone else’s. Having said that, I would like to add that the Australian Product Safety Authorities have issued warnings against the Mermaid tails which are not banned in Australia, however, they are banned in public pools in some parts of the UK, New Zealand and Canada. This was after safety concerns were raised regarding dangers of the tails. I am sure if I did some research on this, I would more than likely find other places with bans on these tails. The tails are not reccomend for deep water and children should be supervised one on one regardless to how well of a swimmer they are. Tails are not recommend for children under 6 years of age. I am not trying to knock your business and burst your bubble, my intention is strictly to raise awareness to those who may not be aware of the dangers of these tails. Should there be an interest in learning more about the safety issues and dangers of these products, I would suggest persons do their research.

    • Mermaid Barbados
      Mermaid Barbados April 25, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      Maria Leclair Dasilva hi maria. i agree with you completely. we do not allow swimming in the tails for under 6year olds. we do allow under 6 year olds and ppl who do not know how swim to wear the tail while sitting in the sand, on a giant clam shell or rock for a photo-shoot. 90% of our bookings are actually for photo-shoots or photo-shoot style parties and the tails dont even get wet. for swimming parties we ask parents to get in the water with kids and our private swim lessons are one on one while our adult/teen group class was 2:1 and participants used flotation devices. the only exception to this i can think of has been the kids of the synchro barbados team at the aquatic center who are professionally trained. i hope this puts your mind to ease.

    • Paige Lorraine
      Paige Lorraine April 25, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Maria Leclair Dasilva… have a fantastic day.

    • Maria Leclair Dasilva
      Maria Leclair Dasilva April 25, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      Great news Mermaid Barbados to hear you have good safety practices. Thank you for putting my mind at ease, I wish you the best.

    • Maria Leclair Dasilva
      Maria Leclair Dasilva April 25, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Judith Hebson, what you consider as “find fault” most of us refer to it as being concerned. Perhaps safety issues are not big on your list, nevertheless, it is on mine!

    • Maria Leclair Dasilva
      Maria Leclair Dasilva April 25, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Thank you, right back at you Paige Lorraine.

    • Pearlie Mae Oldham April 25, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      In over a hundred years of people swimming in mermaid tails, beginning with the famous Annette Kellerman, there have thus far been NO RECORDED INSTANCES of ANYONE DROWNING WEARING A MERMAID TAIL. No other sports equipment can make this claim. So, FYI, Maria, know what you’re talking about before deeming something unsafe.

      Best wishes for your continued success, Shona!
      Mermaid Pearlie Mae

  3. Bonita Weekes
    Bonita Weekes April 25, 2017 at 10:27 am


  4. Mermaid Barbados
    Mermaid Barbados April 25, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Thank you soo much for covering our story!

  5. Bonita Weekes
    Bonita Weekes April 25, 2017 at 10:32 am

    That was my first thought when I first head about this, how safe is it but like every thing else we have to do what every body else do. I am not referring to the young lady who brought it here just how we act or react.

  6. Carolann Gollop
    Carolann Gollop April 25, 2017 at 10:41 am

    I guess like everything else you have to learn how to use them, learn how to swim in them, all under vigilant adult supervision.

  7. Reds Lucombe
    Reds Lucombe April 25, 2017 at 10:54 am

    You mean everything some country do somebody here gotta do to chupse

  8. Tony Webster April 25, 2017 at 11:53 am

    I agree: a Risky Fad, by any measure. Better to invest time, effort, and resources, in swimming programme’s for young Bajans. Plus, include an appreciation of our maritime resources( beaches, reefs, underwater beauty, fighting over-fishing, sustainable use of fish resources , research on turtles, inshore and offshore ecologies etc)

  9. Mermaidfuntime April 25, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    My kids did this and enjoyed it to the max!
    Would do it again!

  10. Harry April 25, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    surely your time & resources could be put to a more productive use, mermaids really……

  11. Bonnie Marton
    Bonnie Marton April 25, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Prices hott I could order some online smh ain’t like those safe anyway

  12. Jlsa Marshall
    Jlsa Marshall April 25, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    Hershey Tull

  13. Allan Hodgkinson
    Allan Hodgkinson April 25, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    The one in left is a Trini Justin Elizabeth Walcott

  14. Isabelle April 26, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    I practiced in regular swim fins before buying a mermaid tail, it’s the absolute BEST thing to do before you go making the choice to buy a tail. I am so glad I learned how to do the dolphin kick on my own without the help of a swim instructor or my parents, and when I bought the tail (it was Fin Fun’s Rainbow Reef tail, a size too big for me), wearing the monofin was so weird at first, but I got used to it, and got better at using it.

    My advice to any child that wants to learn how to swim like a mermaid, DO NOT buy the tail first, practice with a pair of regular swim fins WITH an adult around, it’ll help you IMMENSELY. And don’t think you’re “good at it” until you’ve had at least a year or two of practice, it took me around 5 years to get good at the dolphin kick before I bought my tail.

  15. jsuther June 24, 2017 at 3:19 am

    my daughter is so inspired by mermaids she loves to seim and dream. isnt life about fun and trying new things and wats to soend your time. you could say free climbing or free diving is also dangerous as are many things in life and yes safety is a priority but this is life and life itself is a risk everyday you step out of your front door. this is a fantastic business and in my mind anyone helping the community or charities, inspiring children to live out their dreams, be positive role models or actually getting up and starting their own business is wonderful. Not everyone want to wake up and do the same as everyone else, some people want to have fun. My daughter is from Uk yes there are places here that wont let her use her fin and their answer was ” we arent fin trained”! so maybe if they were we would then have classes here!
    my daughter just want to be free to swim like a mermaid and do what makes her happy. i cant wait to come to barbados on holiday and now this is here just wow wow wow. my daughters dream come true. you cant please everyone and people will always find fault in things you do, keep going because for all of the adults and children who do want this, you are doing it for them. 🙂 fantastic.


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