Uniting over 220 youth and adults from across the country and empowering the next generation of conservation leaders to take action to protect our blue planet, the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit was held at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL December 8th-10th. This year’s event kicked off with our annual Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival on December 9th – celebrating the power of youth leadership in the field of ocean conservation and the importance of sharing ocean conservation stories through film and media. The evening featured a showcase of youth-driven ocean conservation projects led by Summit alumni, a screening of the winning films from our Youth Ocean Conservation Film Competition, and a screening of the award winning film, Chasing Coral, leaving the audience motivated to take action to help protect our blue planet. A special thanks to our donors and supporters who participated in our silent auction fundraiser at this event to support mini-grants youth-driven ocean conservation projects and the continued expansion of this program.
At the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, held on Saturday, attendees kicked off their day by learning key lessons for taking action to protect our blue planet shared by keynote speaker, Youth Ocean Conservation Summit founder, Sean Russell. Attendees then had the chance to hear from outstanding Youth Ocean Conservation Summit alumni, highlighting their diverse conservation initiatives ranging from manatee research projects to a youth-led summer camp focused on marine conservation.
While returning attendees connected and learned from our Careers in Ocean Conservation panel speaker, first time participants worked with their peers and mentors to identify an ocean conservation issue of interest and developed action plans to address these challenges. Throughout the day, attendees took part in diverse workshops on topics ranging from photography and film making to citizen science and habitat restoration in an effort to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully carry out their projects.
The weekend wrapped up on Sunday with an exploration of Sarasota Bay by kayak and an investigation of the marine species living in the mangrove and seagrass habitats of Sarasota.
We are continually inspired by our growing community of Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants and this year’s attendees were no exception. Always willing to step up to the challenge facing our blue planet with a solutions based approach, we are honored to help support their work. A special thanks to all participants, volunteers, speakers, partners, and sponsors – the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Klean Kanteen, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Wyland Galleries, Mote Scientific Foundation, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the Fishes Wishes, EarthEcho International, Sobel Designs, Planet Love Life, Marine Exploration Center, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, Lion Country Safari, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, SCUBAnauts International, Sarasota Bay Watch, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, Sharks4Kids, Carly Mejeur, the International Game Fish Association, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, Sebago Watersports, Zemil Jewelers, Balance Health and Fitness, The Inner Circle Spa, Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe, Mike Bacon Photography, Sarasota Book Goddesses, and Dry Dock Waterfront Grill.
To all our participants, we look forward to following along and supporting your conservation work in the year ahead!