Monday, November 10, 2014

Youth Ocean Conservation Summit Empowers Students to Save the Ocean!

The ocean needs young people now. That was the message to the 200+ youth and adults attending our fourth annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit on Saturday, November 8th, at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL. Our largest Summit to date, this annual event is designed to empower youth participants with the knowledge, skills, and resources to successfully launch ocean conservation projects in their local communities. Youth and adult participants from 10 states attended the event, which was kicked off by an inspiring keynote from Steve Culbertson, President and CEO of Youth Service America, who share with participants 4 reasons why the ocean needs youth ASAP. Steve’s passion for youth leadership, service, and ocean conservation came together in his powerful and inspiring message to participants. The event continued with outstanding presentations by past Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants who shared their work over the past year on ocean conservation initiatives in their local communities. Student attendees then had the chance to work on action plans for their own ocean conservation projects with the help of expert mentors from across the country, and take part in a session focused on careers in ocean conservation. Throughout the remainder of the event, participants attended workshop sessions designed to empower them with the knowledge and skills needed to successfully implement and/or expand ocean conservation projects in their communities. These workshops included topics such as fundraising, social media marketing, using art to promote ocean conservation, working with government officials, exploring ocean conservation issues, film making, grant writing, and a panel session featuring young students taking on ocean conservation issues in their communities. Thanks to Mote Marine Laboratory and the New York Aquarium, select Summit sessions were streamed live for the first time to students watching in Coney Island, NY!

Throughout the day Summit participants had the opportunity to network with other youth and adults from across the country who are passionate about ocean conservation, and connect with organizations working to protect marine ecosystems. The Summit ended with an inspiring “Call to Action” message from long time event supporter, singer/song-writer Jack Johnson!

Immediately following the Summit, the third annual Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival provided an additional avenue to raise awareness about ocean conservation issues, and the work of young people in the field of ocean conservation, to a greater community audience. This year’s event featured a silent auction and raffle fundraiser to help fund the student-driven ocean conservation project planned at the Summit, a screening of the winning films from our 2014 Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival, a screening of the inspiring short film Cabo Pulmo highlighting a marine conservation success story, and the featured presentation – Mission Blue, the powerful story of Dr. Sylvia Earle and her mission to save the ocean.

The 2014 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit weekend wrapped up with an exploration of Sarasota Bay featuring hands on seining, marine life observation, and kayaking experiences led by the staff from the Loxahatchee River Center and FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours!
Throughout the year, the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants will be connected to additional resources and support for their conservation work through our Youth Ocean Conservation Team network.

A special thanks to the incredible participants, presenters, volunteers, sponsors, and Summit planning team members for their inspiring commitment to ocean conservation!

Thanks to the 2014 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit partners and sponsors: Mote Marine Laboratory, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Disney, Wyland Galleries, Wyland Foundation, Youth Service America, Mission Blue, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, Wild Studies, Liz Arme Realty, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, United by Blue, Klean Kanteen, Mote Scientific Foundation, Artist Ryan Sobel, SUP Sarasota, Loxahatchee River Center, ROI Media, The Nature Conservancy, Sarasota Bay Watch, the Florida Aquarium, SCUBAnauts International, Blue Frontier Campaign, The Fishes Wishes, Gloria Clifford – Tropical Island Art, Carly Mejeur Art, Robert Johnson Art, Event Step and Repeat, the Pulse Team, Florida Oceanographic Society, Spunco Films, Sarasota Fins, Ben Hicks Art and Design, Jordan Holm, From the Bow Seat, Ringling College of Art and Design, the New York Aquarium, and Ocean GEMS.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Stow It-Don't Throw It Freshwater Initiative in Hawkinsville, Georgia

- Guest blog submitted by Jannah Brown, Georgia Coordinator for the Stow It-Don't Throw It Project. 

When I learned that fishing line takes over 600 years to decompose and that it is threatening our water supply, I wanted to personalize the Stow It, Don't Throw It Project and begin the first freshwater initiative of the project's kind. Over the past two years, I have dedicated countless hours to the Stow It, Don't Throw It Project in rural Georgia, where I focus on water quality. This involved educating the public on the dangers of monofilament fishing line, distributing personal sized recycling bins, donating large PVC recycling bins, and making efforts to expand the project to neighboring areas.
Not only have I expanded the project to over 1,400 square miles in Georgia (four counties including: Pulaski, Crisp, Dodge and Houston), I have also distributed 878 personal sized recycling bins and manage 9 PVC bins at public fishing areas. From my efforts, I have collected 7 pounds 6 ounces (calculated to 33.5 miles) of fishing line which I have sent to the Berkley Conservation Institute. I feel confident that I have made an impact in my community and have improved water quality of the Ocmulgee River. 

After introducing the project to Pulaski County, I wanted to form an after school program to teach conservation and water quality lessons to school aged children. My club is called R.E.E.L. (Ready to Engage in Environmental Learning) Club. I have gained 70 members who help assemble both personal sized and PVC recycling bins, learn ways to personally protect freshwater, and assist with community service projects. I have visited classrooms at the Pulaski Public Schools and  outreached to over 400 students, ranging from pre-k to middle school. I educated the importance of recycling monofilament and each child was given their very own recycling bin to take home and properly dispose their fishing line. 

By volunteering, being interviewed on television and radio shows, writing newspaper articles, and being a voice in the community, I have outreached to well over 700,000 individuals. My personal goals are to collect over 100 miles of fishing line before I graduate high school, continue educating the public on the dangers of fishing line, distribute more recycling bins to citizens and public fishing areas, and to see the Stow It, Don't Throw It Project recognized on a national level. I have been awarded grants for the expansion of the Project and two college scholarships for my efforts with conservation and recycling. I am very honored to be a part of the Stow It, Don't Throw It Project and I hope I have inspired others to not only recycle fishing line, but to find additional needs in their communities, get involved and truly make a difference. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

North Port Youth Learn Responsible Fishing Practices

On Saturday, June 14th, the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project teamed up with the City of North Port’s annual Kids Fishing Clinic and Tournament to help raise awareness about the importance of fishing line recycling and marine debris prevention. Young people attending this event had the opportunity to participate in a variety of stations to learn responsible fishing techniques and ways to protect marine and aquatic environments.  During the event, students visited our station to learn about fishing line recycling, and assemble their own personal-sized fishing line recycling bins. Over 160 recycling bins were assembled by the youth attending. They also received fishing poles and gear for their participation. A special thanks to the City of North Port for allowing us to be part of this special event!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Stow It-Don't Throw It Project Comes to Alaska!

The Pribilof Islands are a remote group of volcanic islands in the Bering Sea, about 200 miles north of the Aleutian Chain, and about 500 miles southeast from the Russian coast. Check out where we are on the map:
Two of these islands are home to Aleut populations. Read more about the history of the Pribilof Islands and the importance of the fur-seal on our website: St. Paul has a population of about 480, and St. George has a population of about 100, and there is a school on both islands.  The school on St. George Island only has 11 students!
The Pribilof Islands have exceptional wildlife.  A good proportion of the world’s population of Northern Fur Seals breed here during the summer months, and an estimated 2.8 million seabirds nest on the islands.  Imagine the sound, action, and smell with that many fur seals and seabirds! Seabird species include Common Murres, Thick-billed Murres, Red-legged Kittiwakes, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Horned Puffins, Tufted Puffins, Least Auklets, Parakeet Auklets, and Crested Auklets.  
Common Murres in the Pribilof Islands   © Ram Papish 

The Pribilof Island Seabird Youth Network (SYN) is a partnership between the Pribilof School District, Tribal entities, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, and the wider scientific community. The overall goal of SYN is to learn about seabirds and contribute to long-term seabird monitoring while providing new experiences and encouraging the scientific interests and self-confidence of local school kids.  

Lessons about seabirds are incorporated into the school curriculum, and summer Seabird Camps are held on the islands. We have a project website and students have made two documentaries that will show you more about the communities and the Seabird Network:

This summer we’re holding a Seabird Camp on St. Paul Island.  One of the main focuses for the camp will be Marine Debris.  We’ll learn about the risks of marine debris to seabirds and what marine debris washes up on the Pribilof Islands. We’re hoping to do some beach cleanup, create some unique marine debris art, conduct an experiment on degradation of plastic pellets in the harbor, and work with the “Stow-it, don’t throw it” group to make some containers for the safe disposal of fishing line. 

There are no tennis courts on the Pribilof Islands, and tennis balls are rare.  There is no shortage of coffee though, and we’ll be using plastic Folger coffee cans for our fishing-line containers. Commercial and most subsistence fishing from the islands target halibut, with heavier rope used instead of fishing line.  Fishing poles and line are used off the harbor in town to catch flounders, small cod, greenling and rockfish, and so we will be placing our coffee can containers here.

Students on St. Paul Island collecting empty coffee containers to convert into fishing line recycling bins

We’ll be posting daily blog posts during camp (July) so you can follow our progress with the coffee can project.  And, we’re really excited to work with the Stow It-Don't Throw It Project to learn more about marine debris issues and prevention programs around the States. 

- Submitted by Ann Harding, Lead Principal Investigator for the Seabird Youth Network.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Casey Sokolovic brings the Stow It-Don't Throw It Project to North Carolina!

Over the past year, Casey Sokolovic, the 16 year old founder of Help them L.A.S.T. – Love A Sea Turtle has played a key role in bringing the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project to the coast of North Carolina in an effort to protect sea turtles, and other marine wildlife from fishing line entanglement, while teaching students about the importance of marine debris prevention. Help them L.A.S.T. is an organization dedicated to preserving the world’s sea turtle population, inspiring youth to become involved, and provides free outdoor STEM-focused summer camps for local Boys & Girls Clubs.

Casey has incorporated the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project into her educational outreach work around sea turtles, and makes presentations to students of all ages in North Carolina, while engaging them in the assembly and distribution of personal-sized fishing line recycling bins.

Since the beginning of 2013, Casey has involved Boys & Girls Club members, high school and college students, summer campers, and diverse group of youth and adult volunteers in the assembly and distribution of over 4,000 personal-sized fishing line recycling bins! She’s also worked with local tennis clubs to help collect and repurpose tennis ball containers for use in this effort. Additionally, Casey has worked with local Dick’s Sporting Goods Stores, Walmart stores, and dive shops, as well as environmental organizations, to distribute these recycling bins to anglers and boaters.

Casey and the volunteers she works with insert sustainable seafood guides into the completed recycling bins to remind those who receive them of sustainable seafood choices available and options to avoid because of overfishing. Additionally, students write notes and draw pictures that are included with the bins explaining their purpose and the importance of fishing line recycling.  

We’re greatly appreciative of the fantastic work of Casey and the youth and adults who have assisted with her efforts! Keep up the great work!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Join us at Turtle Beach for a Coastal Cleanup!

On Saturday, April 26th, at 9am, join the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project for a coastal cleanup at Turtle Beach Park in Sarasota, FL! This volunteer event is being held in honor of our partnership with Jack Johnson for his 2014 From Here to Now to You Tour, and in conjunction with All at Once, a social action network connecting nonprofits with people who want to become active in their local and world community.

If you’re able to attend this event, please RSVP by sending an e-mail to Cleanup materials will be provided however participants are encouraged to bring their own gloves and filled reusable water bottles.

Thanks in advance for your interest and dedication to helping keep marine environments free of debris! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Help Raise Awareness about Marine Debris Prevention for Global Youth Service Day!

Around the world, marine debris poses a serious threat to our planet’s ocean environments. On April 11-13 in honor of Global Youth Service Day, the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project is recruiting youth and adults, around the world, to raise awareness about this pressing issue by sharing our educational outreach presentation. This presentation, and accompanying activity book, is designed for both youth and adults to use to teach community members about marine debris, its impacts, and the importance of preventing it. 

As part of this campaign, we need YOUR help to share this presentation at your schools, libraries, club meetings and/or community events during Global Youth Service Day April 11-13, 2014, and throughout the year! In addition to sharing this presentation in your community, consider working to take action against by holding a cleanup, carrying out a recycling campaign, or finding creative ways to use discarded items! 

Want to get involved? Send an e-mail to to sign-up to share this presentation in your community and help take action to protect marine environments, and their inhabitants, from the threat of debris!