Thursday, April 2, 2015

Youth Ambassador Profile: Anna Oposa

Anna Oposa and Waqi Whitetip
As Shark Stanley circles the globe he comes across young people who are working to save sharks.  These Youth Ambassadors inspire the rest of us, old and young alike, to take action to make changes in our own backyards.

Our first Youth Ambassador is Anna Oposa, the co-founder and "Chief Mermaid" of Save Philippine Seas. She's the Project Director and Founder of the Shark Shelter Project, which aims to protect thresher sharks and other coastal and marine resources of Daanbantayan, Cebu, and the Sea and Earth Advocates Camp, a project to empower young Filipinos to play leadership roles in marine conservation. Anna is currently taking her MSc in Conservation Science at Imperial College London through the Chevening scholarship.

All of the Youth Ambassadors are asked the same set of four questions.  Here's what Anna had to say:

When and how did you first become interested in sharks?
I've always been fascinated by sharks because my brothers and my dad - who all became scuba divers before I did - talked about them with such excitement. In 2010, I was a junior facilitator of an environmental youth program in Japan, and one of the participants was so passionate about sharks that I started reading more about it, then I got a bit obsessed. I knew I became extremely emotionally invested when I attended a business lunch and they served shark's fin soup, and I started crying! I couldn't help it! It was pretty embarrassing to cry in front of my bosses, but hey, they never ordered shark's fin soup in their business meetings and events again, so I guess it all turned out okay.

How are you working to help save the world’s sharks?
I founded the Shark Shelter Project in 2012 which is a multi-stakeholder, community-based initiative to protect sharks through empowerment, enforcement, and education. The dream is to have Daanbantayan's municipal waters to be declared as the first shark and ray reserve of the Philippines.

I've also written to restaurants to remove shark's fin soup from the menu, Manila Ocean Park to change their exhibit's name from Shark Attack to Shark Encounter, and proposed language for several bills to protect sharks on a national level. I give a lot of talks on environmental issues that highlight the need for shark conservation, and co-founded the first Shark Summit in the Philippines. We're also co-producing a documentary on shark conservation in the Philippines with the advocacy communications company called ChannelGood, due for release this year.

Who are your conservation heroes?
Locally it would be my dad, environmental lawyer Tony Oposa; AA Yaptinchay of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines; Dennis Bait-it of SharkLink; Golly Ramos of Oceana Philippines; and Vince Cinches of Greenpeace. Internationally, Sylvia Earle (I cried when I met her!), Enric Sala, and my course director at Imperial College, Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland.

How would you suggest other people get involved in the protection of sharks?
Everyone can play a role in protecting sharks through our daily habits, from not eating in restaurants that serve shark's fin soup, avoiding seafood that catches sharks as by-catch, choosing personal care products that don't harm the sea, reducing plastic wastes, and learning more about sharks!

You can follow Anna on Twitter.
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