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.

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