Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Youth Ocean Conservation Summit Empowers Young Conservationists

On Friday November 2nd and Saturday November 3rd, over two hundred participants, and presenters, representing Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC, came together, at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida for two special events aimed at increasing public awareness of pressing ocean conservation issues and the implementation of youth led ocean conservation projects to combat these challenges.                     

Friday night’s Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival highlighted the film work of young people in the field of ocean conservation and featured the premier showing of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce’s new educational short film, Rich History… Priceless Future: The Tarpon of Boca Grand Pass. The event also featured a screening of the award winning film This is Your Ocean Sharks introduced by the film’s two time Emmy award director, George Schellenger, and shark conservationist/film star Jim Abernethy.    

The second annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, a day long educational outreach effort organized by the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Marine Debris Prevention Project and Mote Marine Laboratory, took place at Mote on Saturday November 3rd. The over one hundred fifty participants in attendance this year were inspired by the work and message of this year’s keynote speaker, Jim Abernethy, who captivated them while sharing his life’s work in ocean conservation. Youth, who were in attendance at last year’s summit, also inspired participants by sharing their work on ocean conservation projects that emerged from last year’s summit.  Their projects included beach clean ups, mangrove planting projects, educational community events, school recycling projects and art projects..  

This year’s workshop presenters represented contributions from environmental and youth organizations and schools which included Earth Echo International, Greening Forward, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Canterbury School of Florida, One More Generation, Conservation Enterprises Unlimited, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, 4-H, Mote education staff and research scientists, as well as youth from the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project’s Management Team.

Additionally, a special contribution to this year’s summit workshop line up was the Wyland Foundation’s Clean Water Mobile Learning Experience, which was made available to youth attending the summit as well as visitors to Mote Aquarium on Friday and Saturday. 

Projects which emerged from this year’s summit include the expansion of the work of the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project, protection of marine mammals, litter awareness educational programs and clean ups, educational film projects, and restoration of coral reefs, mangrove habitat and oyster beds. Financial support for these projects will come from revenue generated at this year’s Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival as well as funds provided by the International Ocean Institute-USA.

Work at the 2012 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit culminated with a call to action video message featuring National Geographic Explorer in Residence, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Columbus Zoo Director Emeritus, Jack Hanna, Artist of the Sea, Wyland, and Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors, Bindi and Robert Irwin.    

A special thanks to our partners at Mote Marine Laboratory and the 2012 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit sponsors: the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Mote Scientific Foundation, the Wyland Foundation, the International Ocean Institute-USA, EarthEcho International, Sarasota Bay Watch, Teen Research Underwater Explorers, Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, and Suncoast Print Solutions Inc, as well as to all of our volunteers and presenters. And a big thanks to all of our incredible participants for their commitment to protecting our planet's marine ecosystems!

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