Uniting over 230 youth and adults from across the country and empowering the next generation of conservation leaders to take action to protect our blue planet, the 2016 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit brought our largest audience to date to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL on December 9-11. This year’s event kicked off with our annual Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival on December 9 – celebrating the power of youth leadership in the field of ocean conservation and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. 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, as well as special showings of the Sea Youth Rise Up documentary and Coral Reefs: Trouble in Paradise from the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation.
The evening’s featured presentation – Songs and Stories from our National Parks, united Biscayne National Park Ranger, Gary Bremen and South Florida troubadour, Grant Livingston, for a powerful and inspiring presentation celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. 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 were inspired by the work and lessons shared by keynote speaker, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader, Chris Fischer whose impactful stories and groundbreaking research work, through OCEARCH, set the stage for the event with a theme that “nothing is impossible”. Attendees then had the chance to hear from outstanding Youth Ocean Conservation Summit alumni, highlighting their diverse conservation initiatives ranging from plastic pollution prevention programs to habitat restoration efforts. 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 storytelling and filmmaking to fundraising and public speaking in an effort to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully carry out their projects. This year’s Summit also brought the Creative Animal Foundation’s U.S. Tour to Mote. In an effort to highlight the importance of sustainable living, the tour team brought their mobile tiny house to the event to help inspire our participants to take actions to protect the planet in their daily lives. The weekend wrapped up 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 are 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, the Captain Planet Foundation, Klean Kanteen, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the Nature Conservancy, Wyland Galleries, Mote Scientific Foundation, the Florida Aquarium, EarthEcho International, Biscayne National Park, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Blue Frontier Campaign, Sobel Designs, Planet Love Life, Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, Marine Discovery Center, Sarasota Bay Watch, Conservation Ocean, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, Gloria Clifford Island Designs, Sharks4Kids, Carly Mejeur, the International Game Fish Association, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, Sebago Watersports, Ray Rolston – Key West Artist, Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe, the Creative Animal Foundation, the Key West Aquarium, Lost Reef Adventures, Classic Harbor Line, and the Fishes Wishes!
To all our participants, we look forward to following along and supporting your conservation work in the year ahead!
Check out a few more of our favorite photos from this year's Summit!