Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guam Students Oppose Shark Finning

Young Shark Defenders: Students from Simon Sanchez High School and George Washington High School in front of the Guam Senate after last week's public hearing.
Guam's public school students are raising environmental awareness about the protection of land and marine resources.

Simon Sanchez High School's Making a Difference in the Environment Club, or MADE, recently hosted filmmaker Rob Stewart at the school. Stewart spent four years visiting 15 countries to film sharks and expose the illegal and often dangerous world of shark finning.

Stewart talked about the importance of shark conservation, halting the massacre of sharks for their fins, and other environmental issues that affect marine life.

A bill recently introduced on Guam by Vice Speaker Benjamin J. F. Cruz and Sen. Rory Respicio aims to prohibit the trading and selling of shark fins and ray parts.

According to Cruz, each year, commercial fishing kills more than 100 million sharks worldwide -- including tens of millions for just their fins.

"Sharks and rays are especially vulnerable to overfishing because they are slow growing and have few young. Shark finning is brutal and wasteful fishing because less than 5 percent of the weight of the shark is removed with the rest dumped overboard to bleed to death," he stated in a press release.

Evelyn Quiel, MADE president, said it was an honor to host Stewart, whose visit trailed at the heels of the introduction of the local legislation. Students were able to learn more about Stewart's efforts to save the environment. "I think students are inspired when they see what other people are doing to make a difference," Quiel said. "I'm hoping it will help us, the students on Guam, to want to do more and inspire others as well."

The group, along with other student environmental organizations on Guam, has become a large part of the island community's efforts to promote an awareness of the impact people have on the environment.

Among those organizations is Marine Mania, a George Washington High School student organization that has its roots in marine biology teacher Linda Tatreau's classroom.

The GW and Simon Sanchez clubs have helped plant trees, promoted awareness about shark finning, and picked up trash around the island. At schools, they recycle and hold events that teach fellow students why it's important that they make a stand in protecting the environment.

MADE adviser and Simon Sanchez High marine biology teacher Melanie Blas said today's high school students are a part of a generation where eco-consciousness has become the forefront of discussion.

By participating in these events, student or community groups that are involved in environmental programs can help do more than pick up trash and recycle. "Because they're out there, they can see the problems, the challenges in programs like recycling and maybe they'll be able to come up with a solution in the future that makes being environmentally responsible more economically or financially feasible or even beneficial," Blas said. "I would encourage students to participate in a program, whether it's at the school level or the community level."

The University of Guam Green Army is one example of an environmental awareness program at the community level. The organization has attracted students from both the high school and college level.

Published in the Pacific Daily News on February 6, 2011

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