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!
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