Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Youth Ambassador Profile: Joseph Casila

Joseph and Shark Stanley
Joseph Casila, a high school student on Guam is our next Shark Stanley Youth Ambassador.  Joseph was born on Guam, raised in the Philippines, went back to Guam, and has now lived back on island for the last 12 years. He's always enjoyed solving problems, so for the past year (after taking marine biology at George Washington High School), he's been working to solve the problem of Guam not being a shark sanctuary.

When and how did you first become interested in sharks?
I first became interested in sharks in 6th grade when we learned about their special abilities in preparation for a field trip to Underwater World. When I first learned about their Ampullae of Lorenzini, I thought to myself, "These fish must be the super humans of the sea." From then, I just looked at them as super cool animals. On the other hand, I became interested in saving sharks after watching the documentary called Shark Fin Soup. Again, I like solving problems and people killing sharks just because they are "scary" or supposedly a "delicacy" is a big problem that I want to solve. I just don't see the logic in killing sharks.

How are you working to help save the world's sharks?
Right now, I am coordinating a contest I created called the Save Our Sharks Video Contest. The contest aims to educate the public, spread the love, and remove the fear of sharks. I believe that most are only afraid because they don't understand. Hopefully by the end of the contest and after we publicize the contest videos, people would learn, love, or at least understand how amazing sharks really are. On another spectrum of the Save Our Sharks campaign, I plan on introducing a Youth Congress legislation to create a shark sanctuary with as much authority over the ocean as our local government has. Also, I plan to work on ensuring that existing shark fin bans are followed.

Who are your conservation heroes?
My conservation hero is without a doubt Ms. Linda Tatreau. She has done so much conservational work, been with Marine Mania for so many years, and have inspired so many lives through her love and commitment to the environment. I am one of them! When she picks up a plastic bottle in public, it would make you question why our society doesn't have the same attitude towards the environment like her. Before meeting her, I would be uncomfortable picking up trash in public just like how some people would think picking up trash is "un-classy". However after one quarter with her, I couldn't be more proud of running after a plastic bag being carried away by the wind because I know I'm saving the environment and it's what other people should be doing anyway. That is just a tidbit of how heroic Ms. Tatreau is. There's no one else I know who's convservation efforts and attitude are so astounding that it's contagious. Another heroic thing about Ms. Tatreau is how she makes work fun and feel like it's not work at all! Because of her, recycling isn't really recycling; it's saving animals by helping prevent pollution. Because of her, campaigning also isn't really campaigning; it's simply helping to preserve the ocean's ecosystem. She not only taught me, but also showed and inspired me to do conservation work. She not only was a teacher, but was also a hero to me.

How would you suggest other people get involved in the protection of sharks?
If you're not interested in saving sharks yet, it'll be great news to hear that it's not hard to find interest. All you have to do is educate yourself about sharks and all the things being done to them. Once you've done those two things, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say it's hard to not become an advocate. You'll want to do something about it because sharks are just amazing creatures that need to be protected. For me, all it took was a supportive team and an hour or two of watching Shark Fin Soup to start advocating sharks. For those who already do want to help protect sharks, the easiest thing you can do is to educate yourself and especially others. For example, when you hear someone talking about how sharks are out to devour people who swim in the ocean, stop and inform them before they spread misleading statements to others. Just because they can smell a single drop of blood 3 miles away, it's not logical in thinking that a shark will swim that distance just to intentionally eat something that is (1) unknown to them and (2) not even part of their food chain. For those who feel like they want to help on a much bigger scale, I would suggest joining/starting a group or organization to further increase the educational delivery to an even bigger audience. To me, misunderstanding is the biggest hurdle in saving our sharks. A lot of people are just misinformed and scared for now. That is why public awareness and education are what I push for the most. It's only when the public reach a genuine understanding for sharks, can we all, as community, move to save them. To hear the word shark and have something positive be the first thing that come into people's minds instead of things like sharp teeth and killing machine is something that I can only dream of for now. Hopefully through advocates' hard work, that time will come soon and people will finally understand how amazing and important sharks really are.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

5 Questions With Shark Stanley: Charlotte Vick

Charlotte met Shark Stanley in Washington, DC
It's time to meet our next Shark Ambassador.

As Shark Stanley makes his way around the world, he gains the support of scientists, conservationists, athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and politicians. We are honoring the best minds in shark conservation as Shark Ambassadors and will highlight them in a series of upcoming blogs. We'll ask each Ambassador five questions to learn about their work, their opinion on how we will save sharks, and advice to young people who want to follow in their footsteps.

Charlotte Vick is a specialist in coastal management, government, maritime policy, technology and planning who works at community, state, national and international levels. In 2008, she joined the Sylvia Earle Alliance, Google and a team of scientists and hundreds of partners to develop a new platform for ocean education. Using curated imagery, scientific information and data on Google Earth, the team pioneered new ways of visualization that now routinely access and display the critical planetary ocean and atmospheric systems enabling leaders and citizens to know more about even the most remote places such as the Marianas Trench.

We ask the same five questions of all of our Shark Ambassadors. Here's what Charlotte had to say.

Why are sharks important to you?
Sharks are an ancient species that has served ocean ecosystems for millions of years. Healthy ecosystems need healthy populations of sharks. And, they are beautiful creatures who are seriously misunderstood by humans.

How are we going to save the world's sharks?
We save the world's sharks by allowing them to not only survive, but thrive.

How are you working to protect sharks?
In addition to supporting legislation to protect sharks in state and national waters around the US, I work with shark advocates to create video and photo based stories that educate people of all ages in multiple languages as part of the team of the Sylvia Earle Alliance and Mission Blue.

Lots of people look up to you, who are your conservation heroes?
I am very proud to work with Dr. Sylvia Earle, oceanographer and marine biologist who is one of the world's great ocean advocates. I also admire Professor Callum Roberts a conservation biologist from the UK, Dr. Carl Safina, a superb writer and ecologist, Dr. Edith Widder, explorer and marine scientist, and film director Louie Psihoyos.

What advice would you give to young conservationists?
Young conservationists should get into the field as often as they can, read books written by those above and others, see conservation and natural history films and volunteer in their home community. A good grounding in sciences from school will serve them well throughout their lives.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Youth Ambassador Profile: Tina Randall

Tina Randall takes a swim with Shark Stanley
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.

Tina Randall is our second Youth Ambassador from the Caribbean. She lives in the Turks and Caicos Islands where she works on a family farm with just about every animal you can imagine, but her favorite animal is Shark Stanley. Tina’s favorite activities include getting kids riled up for shark conservation, diving with Shark Stanley and dressing up in a shark mascot costume and twerking like a tiger shark.

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

When and how did you first become interested in sharks?
I fell in love with sharks when I did a semester in the Galapagos Islands studying marine biology. After diving with Hammerheads and free diving with 25 whitetip sharks by myself, I felt a strong connection with sharks. I was addicted to the exhilarating and humbling feeling you get when they look you in the eyes. When I saw the piles and truckloads of dead sharks on mainland Ecuador, a fire was lit inside me to save sharks. My passion grew into a senior thesis on their conservation. This influenced my peers to contact government and put fuel into the movement that contributed to the Oregon HB 2838 that bans possession, trade and sale of shark fins.

How are you working to help save the world’s sharks?
A team of hardcore chicks in the Turks and Caicos are cultivating a culture of children who care about shark protections. One kid at a time, we are changing perceptions of sharks from a fearful “Jaws” to an appreciative “sharks are Jawsome” attitude. Once kids get over the fact that sharks are not trying to eat them they get so excited to learn about all the cool species and what they do for the marine ecosystem. Some kids who had never even swam in the ocean before beg to go snorkeling and see a shark. Recently the Turks and Caicos’ hosted our first Shark Conservation Weekend. Conservationist Rob Stewart and the #TCISHARK crew visited dozens of schools, went scuba diving with local children, and drew over 250 guests to a screening of his documentary Sharkwater.

Who are your conservation heroes?
After having the opportunity to spend Shark Conservation Week with Rob Stewart I would have to say he is at the top of my list. One person with one documentary was able to reach millions. How inspiring for someone so young to create such a beautiful documentary that helps change people’s perceptions of sharks and see them for what they really are, totally jawsome! Seeing him talk in person is inspiring and makes me want to have them same effect on an audience.

How would you suggest other people get involved in the protection of sharks?
I think it is really important to know your audience and be confident. You have to organize your argument and speak differently to a fisherman than would a government official or a school child. You have to understand what the person cares about and how they can benefit from shark protections. And make it fun for kids!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Leah Meth on Sharkbait's Chumline

Scott and his family.
Shark Attack Survivor for Shark Conservation Scott Curatolo-Wagemann interviewed Leah Meth on his podcast, Sharkbait's Chumline last week. The interview is split over three parts and can be found here, here, and here. I won't steal Scott and Leah's thunder, but in part one they talk about Leah and how she came up with Shark Stanley, part two talks about CITES in 2013, and part three talks about the new campaign.

Scott interviewed Angelo Villagomez about Shark Stanley and CITES two years ago, too. That interview plays over 5 parts, and you can find it here, here, here, here, and here.

Oh, and Scott's been helping us out for some time now.  Here he is with his son when he was only 3 1/2, helping out with our Shark Stanley campaign at CITES two years ago.

Scott and his son in 2013.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Youth Ambassador Profile: Jillian Morris

Jillian and Shark Stanley
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.

Jillian Morris is the founder and president of Sharks4Kids, a shark education organization based in Florida. She has a behavioral biology degree and is a professional videographer and photographer who spends most of her time on the island of Bimini, The Bahamas swimming with sharks.

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

When and how did you first become interested in sharks?
I saw my first shark when I was 8 years old snorkeling in Florida. I was fascinated by all sea creatures, but was especially excited about seeing a shark in the wild. I was hooked (no pun intended) from that point!

How are you working to help save the world’s sharks?
I honestly believe kids can make a difference and that is why I started Sharks4Kids. Our goal is to empower and inspire students to speak up for sharks and for the oceans. We are providing students and teachers with a wide range of educational materials and information, as well as connecting with them in the classroom. We have spoken with over 20,000 students in 25 different countries and 42 US States!

Who are your conservation heroes?
Rachel Carson, Sylvia Earle and my mom!

How would you suggest other people get involved in the protection of sharks?
Do not buy shark products (meat, cartilage. Jaws or squalene based). This is a simple easy step we can all make. Do not be afraid to ask what is in something. Make sustainable seafood choices if you eat seafood. Where did it come from? How was it caught? If there is bycatch, is it sustainable? Get involved. Find a local organization to help with; read a shark book to kids at a school, volunteer at an event or join a beach cleanup.

You can follow Jillian on Twitter.
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