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Benchley Youth Award Winner Leads Youth Ocean Conservation Summit

Last year we met Sean Russell, one of a growing group of young people who are changing the world. And now, we are proud to welcome the ‘Stow It Don’t Throw It Project’ as a new Mission Blue Affiliate Partner.

Sean is the founder of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit and the Stow It Don’t Throw It Project,  where he works tirelessly to remind young people that they can make a difference. He provides them with training, tools and acts as mentor to help them reach their goals. We weren’t surprised to hear that Sean will be receiving the ‘Christopher Benchley Youth Award’ at the Blue Frontier Campaign’s  Peter Benchley Awards on May 15 in Washington, D.C.  ~  Ed.

Inspiring Youth

Around the world, our planet’s oceans and their inhabitants face many challenges. As human impacts continually threaten the health of our marine ecosystems, both locally and globally, it is imperative that we involve young people to solve these problems.

Sean Russell at the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit

The Youth Ocean Conservation Summit is an annual event created to empower young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement ocean conservation projects designed to tackle threats facing marine ecosystems in their local communities. A collaborative effort between the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project, a youth-driven marine debris prevention initiative, and Mote Marine Laboratory, this event gives youth participants, ranging in age from upper elementary to college aged students, the opportunity to learn from marine scientists and conservationists about current threats facing marine ecosystems and the urgency of addressing these challenges.

Training & Workshops

At the summit, participants are also able to learn about the work of other young people in the field of ocean conservation, and are then inspired to work with their peers, as well as mentors from conservation organizations, to develop action plans for their own ocean conservation projects. Participants spend the remainder of the event taking part in hands-on workshops and training sessions, led by both youth and adults.

These workshops focus on topics which include fundraising, branding, public speaking, leveraging business partnerships, working with government officials, utilizing social media, and volunteer recruitment. Designed to give youth participants the resources and skills necessary to make their newly planned ocean conservation projects a success, these workshops are an integral part of the summit.

Mission Blue Partner Wyland is also a supporter

The second annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit was held on November 3rd, at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL in conjunction with the first Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival, and Youth Ocean Conservation Film Competition. The film festival and film competition were designed to highlight the work of young people in the field of ocean conservation, and showcase informative short films about ocean conservation issues. With the addition of these events, a broader audience was reached with a message of ocean conservation. Over 200 young people and adults from across Florida, as well as Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. participated in the 2012 event.

Mini-Grant Projects

This year, as a result of funds raised through the Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival, and with support from the International Ocean Institute U.S.A., participants were able to apply for mini-grants to help support their conservation project plans. This year’s grants are supporting a mangrove planting project run 4-H members in Lee County Florida, the creation of videos and PSAs on ocean conservation issues, the development of an educational flyer on the conservation of the Florida East Coast Terrapin by students at Brevard Zoo, an educational program created by students at the National Aquarium about conservation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a student-led summer camp program that will teach Boys and Girls Club members about water and ocean conservation, educational presentations and eco-tours designed to teach community members about shark conservation in southeast Florida, and a coral reef restoration project being carried out by members of the Teen Research Underwater Explorers Dive Team.

Visit to Aquarius with (c) Teen Research Underwater Explorers

Throughout the year, students are able to gain resources and support for their projects, and collaborate with each other through the Youth Ocean Conservation Team network. Launched after the first ocean summit in 2011, the Youth Ocean Conservation Team has expanded to become a global network of youth and adults who are passionate about protecting our planet’s marine ecosystems. Individuals interested in getting involved in this network, can sign-up to join our monthly e-newsletter by visiting: www.youthoceanconservationteam.org.

The Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project is a youth-driven marine debris prevention and ocean conservation program. To find out more about our fishing line recycling and marine debris prevention initiatives, educational outreach programs, and annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit visit www.stowitdontthrowitproject.org.  Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stowitdontthrowit.

By Sean Russell, Stow It Don’t Throw it – Project Director

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