Young Wavemakers: Sean Russell


We love to see young people getting involved in ocean conservation. This series highlights those who are taking action and reminding us that people of all ages have the power to change the world.

We met Sean Russell at the Blue Vision Summit in Washington, DC where he was a speaker and moderated the panel on “Youth Leadership and the Planet”, along with other young representatives from Teens for Oceans, Youth Service America, Earth Echo International, and 5 Gyres. These young activists discussed the importance of youth leadership in ocean conservation and described the ways in which adults and young people can work together to provide and care for the oceans.

Stow It - Don't Throw It

Sean Russell gained recognition when he created a program in 2008 (he was just 16 at the time) called “Stow It – Don’t Throw It,” which encourages young people to create and distribute personal-sized monofilament recycling bins. Monofilament fishing line is a fishing lines that is made from a single fiber of plastic and can take up to 600 years to decompose.  These bins are created out of recycled tennis ball cans and can be used by anglers and boaters to safely store their used fishing line, which, if not properly disposed of, can be hazardous to sea life.

The “Stow It – Don’t Throw” program also led to a Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, which provides participants an opportunity to learn from marine scientists and ocean conservationists about threats facing marine eco-systems. The next Youth Ocean Conservation Summit will be held on Saturday, November 16 at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. The second annual Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival will also be held on Friday, November 15th. Students in grades K-12 can create and enter short films on ocean issues. The winning films will be publicly screened at the film festival.

Sean grew up in Florida, loving the ocean. After taking part in ocean education programs through Mote Marine Lab and 4-H, he decided to form his own club to increase awareness of ocean issues. After the success of his “Stow It – Don’t Throw It” program and the overwhelming response, he recognized that young people want to get involved with conservation, but often don’t know where to start. Kids feel empowered by simple acts such as recycling, and this can lead them to spearhead their own projects.

The Summit is an outlet for kids and young adults to be introduced to current marine threats. They are then led through project action planning sessions and workshops which give them the tools they need to make their projects successful. The 2013 summit will be the third annual, involving kids from all over the country. Over 180 individuals attended last year’s summit, and become involved in a variety of ocean conservation projects including mangrove restoration planting, educational outreach, clean-ups, recycling, and oyster restoration.

The 2013 Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival is in its second year, and was created to bring community members together in support of active youth participation in marine conservation. The winners of the student film competition are shown along with other ocean conservation films. Four winners were selected last year: 1 elementary student, 1 middle school and 2 high schoolers. Entries for this year’s Film Festival are currently being accepted and more details are available at www.yocs.org.

It is youth activists like Sean Russell who inspire us – teaching everyone that you can truly make a difference in the area of ocean conservation at any age. Sean expressed his desire to give young people across the nation a chance to participate by replicating summits like his in order to save and protect our beautiful ocean environments and marine life. We couldn’t agree more.

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