Friday, November 22, 2013

Annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit and Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival a Huge Success

Youth and adults from eight states and Washington D.C. came together at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, on Friday, November 15th and Saturday November 16th, to take part in two annual events designed with a one common goal in mind – the protection of our planet’s ocean through the support of ocean conservation projects.

Attendees at Friday night’s Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival were treated to an evening showcasing the work of youth, as well as veterans, involved in ocean conservation work and were inspired by a night of films featuring youth driven ocean conservation messages and by the ocean conservation work of wounded combat veterans featured in the newly released film, Operation Blue Pride. This film tells the moving story of three severely wounded combat veterans who have begun a quest to save the ocean and by doing so have saved themselves. Shark conservationist Jim Abernethy introduced the film and presented his work with the Operation Blue Pride Program. The event also featured keynote speaker, Justin Riney of Expedition Florida 500 who shared stories from his year-long journey paddle boarding Florida’s coastlines and inland waterways while raising awareness about the importance of protecting Florida’s marine ecosystems. Funds generated from Film Festival ticket sales and a silent auction and raffle fundraiser will help fund the work of student led conservation projects emerging from this year’s Youth Ocean Conservation Summit.

Organized by the Stow It – Don’t Throw It Marine Debris Prevention Project and Mote Marine Laboratory, the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, is designed to provide young people with the knowledge, skills, and support needed to launch their own ocean conservation projects to address marine conservation issues in their local communities. This year’s summit was attended by over 190 youth and adult representatives from Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington D.C. Keynote speaker Justin Riney inspired youth with stories of his adventures paddle boarding Florida’s waterways and encouraged youth participants to follow their own pathways and make a difference for our planet. Additionally, past Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants inspired attendees by sharing their ocean conservation project work. Speakers and presenting organizations at the summit included Debra Kerr of YouthMuse, The Pulse Team, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, L.O.V.E. a Sea Turtle, EarthEcho International, International Ocean Institute – USA, BLUE Ocean Film Festival, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, Ryan Sobel Art, Professor Clark the Science Shark, and the Canterbury School of Florida.

Youth-driven ocean conservation projects emerging from this year’s summit include initiatives focused on raising awareness about ocean acidification, marine debris prevention education and participation in beach cleanup programs. Other youth initiatives include projects aimed reducing plastic bag use, projects focused on manatee, shark, and sea turtle conservation, the adoption of boat ramps, and ways to reduce the number of cigarette butts deposited on local beaches. Financial support for these projects will come from mini-grants made possible by revenue generated at this year’s Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival as well as funds provided by our event sponsors.

At this year’s event, an exciting announcement was made about our newest initiative to expand the reach of this program to youth across the country through the launch of a series of satellite Youth Ocean Conservation Summits. The first of these will be planned and implemented by students from the National Aquarium’s Aquarium on Wheels program and will take place in Annapolis, MD in July of 2014. Additional details about this effort will be available shortly!

Work at the 2013 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit culminated with a call to action video message featuring Mote Marine Laboratory Founder and Director Emeritus, Dr. Eugenie Clark, President and CEO of Youth Service America, Steve Culbertson, co-founder of the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards and ocean conservation advocate, Wendy Benchley, and President and CEO of EarthEcho International, Philippe Cousteau. 

A special thanks to our partners at Mote Marine Laboratory and the 2013 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit sponsors: Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, the Wyland Foundation, Wyland Galleries, Mote Scientific Foundation, SeaWorld/Busch Gardens, the International Ocean Institute – USA, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, ROI media,  Klean Kanteen, United by Blue, realtor Liz Arme, EarthEcho International, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, artist Ryan Sobel, the Florida Aquarium, Loxahatchee River Center, Expedition Florida 500, Operation: Blue Pride, Paradise Pops, Shark Whisperer Organization, Suncoast Print Solutions, The Fishes Wishes, Liquid Art Designs, and Robert Johnson fine art.

Attendees learning about youth-driven ocean conservation projects at the 2013 Community Ocean Conservation Film festival.  
Participants preparing for the kick-off of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit weekend with a screening of Operation: Blue Pride. 

Sarasota Bay Watch educational exhibit at the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit.

Participants receiving educational material on ocean conservation opportunities. 
Keynote speaker Justin Riney shares his adventures on Expedition Florida 500 and tells participants to, "Live with a passionate curiosity."

Teens from Baltimore, MD and the National Aquarium's Aquarium on Wheels program sharing their ocean conservation work. 

Over 190 youth and adults attended the summit from 8 states and Washington D.C.!

Participants learning about "Careers in Ocean Conservation". 

Students from Broward County Florida prepare an action plan for their ocean conservation project. 

Deb Kerr of YouthMuse speaks to summit participants about making a bigger difference with a better message.

Deborah Kinder, CEO/Executive Director of the Blue Ocean Film Festival leads a workshop on the power of great films to change the world. 

Stacey Rafalowski of EarthEcho International shares EarthEcho Expeditions and the use of Public Service Announcements as tools to communicate ocean conservation messages. 

Artist Ryan Sobel speaks to students about using art as tool to share their ocean conservation projects and messages. 

Lights, Camera, Action - students prepare to plan and film public service announcements about their newly planned ocean conservation projects.

A special thanks to our summit and sponsors for their support of this year's summit, and a big thanks to marine artist Wyland for designing the 2013 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit t-shirt. 

Mote Marine Laboratory Director Emeritus, Dr. Eugenie Clark helps close the summit through an inspirational call to action video message. 

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