Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Stow It-Don't Throw It Freshwater Initiative in Hawkinsville, Georgia

- Guest blog submitted by Jannah Brown, Georgia Coordinator for the Stow It-Don't Throw It Project. 

When I learned that fishing line takes over 600 years to decompose and that it is threatening our water supply, I wanted to personalize the Stow It, Don't Throw It Project and begin the first freshwater initiative of the project's kind. Over the past two years, I have dedicated countless hours to the Stow It, Don't Throw It Project in rural Georgia, where I focus on water quality. This involved educating the public on the dangers of monofilament fishing line, distributing personal sized recycling bins, donating large PVC recycling bins, and making efforts to expand the project to neighboring areas.
Not only have I expanded the project to over 1,400 square miles in Georgia (four counties including: Pulaski, Crisp, Dodge and Houston), I have also distributed 878 personal sized recycling bins and manage 9 PVC bins at public fishing areas. From my efforts, I have collected 7 pounds 6 ounces (calculated to 33.5 miles) of fishing line which I have sent to the Berkley Conservation Institute. I feel confident that I have made an impact in my community and have improved water quality of the Ocmulgee River. 

After introducing the project to Pulaski County, I wanted to form an after school program to teach conservation and water quality lessons to school aged children. My club is called R.E.E.L. (Ready to Engage in Environmental Learning) Club. I have gained 70 members who help assemble both personal sized and PVC recycling bins, learn ways to personally protect freshwater, and assist with community service projects. I have visited classrooms at the Pulaski Public Schools and  outreached to over 400 students, ranging from pre-k to middle school. I educated the importance of recycling monofilament and each child was given their very own recycling bin to take home and properly dispose their fishing line. 

By volunteering, being interviewed on television and radio shows, writing newspaper articles, and being a voice in the community, I have outreached to well over 700,000 individuals. My personal goals are to collect over 100 miles of fishing line before I graduate high school, continue educating the public on the dangers of fishing line, distribute more recycling bins to citizens and public fishing areas, and to see the Stow It, Don't Throw It Project recognized on a national level. I have been awarded grants for the expansion of the Project and two college scholarships for my efforts with conservation and recycling. I am very honored to be a part of the Stow It, Don't Throw It Project and I hope I have inspired others to not only recycle fishing line, but to find additional needs in their communities, get involved and truly make a difference. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

North Port Youth Learn Responsible Fishing Practices

On Saturday, June 14th, the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project teamed up with the City of North Port’s annual Kids Fishing Clinic and Tournament to help raise awareness about the importance of fishing line recycling and marine debris prevention. Young people attending this event had the opportunity to participate in a variety of stations to learn responsible fishing techniques and ways to protect marine and aquatic environments.  During the event, students visited our station to learn about fishing line recycling, and assemble their own personal-sized fishing line recycling bins. Over 160 recycling bins were assembled by the youth attending. They also received fishing poles and gear for their participation. A special thanks to the City of North Port for allowing us to be part of this special event!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Stow It-Don't Throw It Project Comes to Alaska!

The Pribilof Islands are a remote group of volcanic islands in the Bering Sea, about 200 miles north of the Aleutian Chain, and about 500 miles southeast from the Russian coast. Check out where we are on the map:
Two of these islands are home to Aleut populations. Read more about the history of the Pribilof Islands and the importance of the fur-seal on our website: St. Paul has a population of about 480, and St. George has a population of about 100, and there is a school on both islands.  The school on St. George Island only has 11 students!
The Pribilof Islands have exceptional wildlife.  A good proportion of the world’s population of Northern Fur Seals breed here during the summer months, and an estimated 2.8 million seabirds nest on the islands.  Imagine the sound, action, and smell with that many fur seals and seabirds! Seabird species include Common Murres, Thick-billed Murres, Red-legged Kittiwakes, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Horned Puffins, Tufted Puffins, Least Auklets, Parakeet Auklets, and Crested Auklets.  
Common Murres in the Pribilof Islands   © Ram Papish 

The Pribilof Island Seabird Youth Network (SYN) is a partnership between the Pribilof School District, Tribal entities, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, and the wider scientific community. The overall goal of SYN is to learn about seabirds and contribute to long-term seabird monitoring while providing new experiences and encouraging the scientific interests and self-confidence of local school kids.  

Lessons about seabirds are incorporated into the school curriculum, and summer Seabird Camps are held on the islands. We have a project website and students have made two documentaries that will show you more about the communities and the Seabird Network:

This summer we’re holding a Seabird Camp on St. Paul Island.  One of the main focuses for the camp will be Marine Debris.  We’ll learn about the risks of marine debris to seabirds and what marine debris washes up on the Pribilof Islands. We’re hoping to do some beach cleanup, create some unique marine debris art, conduct an experiment on degradation of plastic pellets in the harbor, and work with the “Stow-it, don’t throw it” group to make some containers for the safe disposal of fishing line. 

There are no tennis courts on the Pribilof Islands, and tennis balls are rare.  There is no shortage of coffee though, and we’ll be using plastic Folger coffee cans for our fishing-line containers. Commercial and most subsistence fishing from the islands target halibut, with heavier rope used instead of fishing line.  Fishing poles and line are used off the harbor in town to catch flounders, small cod, greenling and rockfish, and so we will be placing our coffee can containers here.

Students on St. Paul Island collecting empty coffee containers to convert into fishing line recycling bins

We’ll be posting daily blog posts during camp (July) so you can follow our progress with the coffee can project.  And, we’re really excited to work with the Stow It-Don't Throw It Project to learn more about marine debris issues and prevention programs around the States. 

- Submitted by Ann Harding, Lead Principal Investigator for the Seabird Youth Network.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Casey Sokolovic brings the Stow It-Don't Throw It Project to North Carolina!

Over the past year, Casey Sokolovic, the 16 year old founder of Help them L.A.S.T. – Love A Sea Turtle has played a key role in bringing the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project to the coast of North Carolina in an effort to protect sea turtles, and other marine wildlife from fishing line entanglement, while teaching students about the importance of marine debris prevention. Help them L.A.S.T. is an organization dedicated to preserving the world’s sea turtle population, inspiring youth to become involved, and provides free outdoor STEM-focused summer camps for local Boys & Girls Clubs.

Casey has incorporated the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project into her educational outreach work around sea turtles, and makes presentations to students of all ages in North Carolina, while engaging them in the assembly and distribution of personal-sized fishing line recycling bins.

Since the beginning of 2013, Casey has involved Boys & Girls Club members, high school and college students, summer campers, and diverse group of youth and adult volunteers in the assembly and distribution of over 4,000 personal-sized fishing line recycling bins! She’s also worked with local tennis clubs to help collect and repurpose tennis ball containers for use in this effort. Additionally, Casey has worked with local Dick’s Sporting Goods Stores, Walmart stores, and dive shops, as well as environmental organizations, to distribute these recycling bins to anglers and boaters.

Casey and the volunteers she works with insert sustainable seafood guides into the completed recycling bins to remind those who receive them of sustainable seafood choices available and options to avoid because of overfishing. Additionally, students write notes and draw pictures that are included with the bins explaining their purpose and the importance of fishing line recycling.  

We’re greatly appreciative of the fantastic work of Casey and the youth and adults who have assisted with her efforts! Keep up the great work!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Join us at Turtle Beach for a Coastal Cleanup!

On Saturday, April 26th, at 9am, join the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project for a coastal cleanup at Turtle Beach Park in Sarasota, FL! This volunteer event is being held in honor of our partnership with Jack Johnson for his 2014 From Here to Now to You Tour, and in conjunction with All at Once, a social action network connecting nonprofits with people who want to become active in their local and world community.

If you’re able to attend this event, please RSVP by sending an e-mail to Cleanup materials will be provided however participants are encouraged to bring their own gloves and filled reusable water bottles.

Thanks in advance for your interest and dedication to helping keep marine environments free of debris! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Help Raise Awareness about Marine Debris Prevention for Global Youth Service Day!

Around the world, marine debris poses a serious threat to our planet’s ocean environments. On April 11-13 in honor of Global Youth Service Day, the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project is recruiting youth and adults, around the world, to raise awareness about this pressing issue by sharing our educational outreach presentation. This presentation, and accompanying activity book, is designed for both youth and adults to use to teach community members about marine debris, its impacts, and the importance of preventing it. 

As part of this campaign, we need YOUR help to share this presentation at your schools, libraries, club meetings and/or community events during Global Youth Service Day April 11-13, 2014, and throughout the year! In addition to sharing this presentation in your community, consider working to take action against by holding a cleanup, carrying out a recycling campaign, or finding creative ways to use discarded items! 

Want to get involved? Send an e-mail to to sign-up to share this presentation in your community and help take action to protect marine environments, and their inhabitants, from the threat of debris! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit and Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival a Huge Success

Youth and adults from eight states and Washington D.C. came together at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, on Friday, November 15th and Saturday November 16th, to take part in two annual events designed with a one common goal in mind – the protection of our planet’s ocean through the support of ocean conservation projects.

Attendees at Friday night’s Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival were treated to an evening showcasing the work of youth, as well as veterans, involved in ocean conservation work and were inspired by a night of films featuring youth driven ocean conservation messages and by the ocean conservation work of wounded combat veterans featured in the newly released film, Operation Blue Pride. This film tells the moving story of three severely wounded combat veterans who have begun a quest to save the ocean and by doing so have saved themselves. Shark conservationist Jim Abernethy introduced the film and presented his work with the Operation Blue Pride Program. The event also featured keynote speaker, Justin Riney of Expedition Florida 500 who shared stories from his year-long journey paddle boarding Florida’s coastlines and inland waterways while raising awareness about the importance of protecting Florida’s marine ecosystems. Funds generated from Film Festival ticket sales and a silent auction and raffle fundraiser will help fund the work of student led conservation projects emerging from this year’s Youth Ocean Conservation Summit.

Organized by the Stow It – Don’t Throw It Marine Debris Prevention Project and Mote Marine Laboratory, the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, is designed to provide young people with the knowledge, skills, and support needed to launch their own ocean conservation projects to address marine conservation issues in their local communities. This year’s summit was attended by over 190 youth and adult representatives from Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington D.C. Keynote speaker Justin Riney inspired youth with stories of his adventures paddle boarding Florida’s waterways and encouraged youth participants to follow their own pathways and make a difference for our planet. Additionally, past Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants inspired attendees by sharing their ocean conservation project work. Speakers and presenting organizations at the summit included Debra Kerr of YouthMuse, The Pulse Team, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, L.O.V.E. a Sea Turtle, EarthEcho International, International Ocean Institute – USA, BLUE Ocean Film Festival, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, Ryan Sobel Art, Professor Clark the Science Shark, and the Canterbury School of Florida.

Youth-driven ocean conservation projects emerging from this year’s summit include initiatives focused on raising awareness about ocean acidification, marine debris prevention education and participation in beach cleanup programs. Other youth initiatives include projects aimed reducing plastic bag use, projects focused on manatee, shark, and sea turtle conservation, the adoption of boat ramps, and ways to reduce the number of cigarette butts deposited on local beaches. Financial support for these projects will come from mini-grants made possible by revenue generated at this year’s Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival as well as funds provided by our event sponsors.

At this year’s event, an exciting announcement was made about our newest initiative to expand the reach of this program to youth across the country through the launch of a series of satellite Youth Ocean Conservation Summits. The first of these will be planned and implemented by students from the National Aquarium’s Aquarium on Wheels program and will take place in Annapolis, MD in July of 2014. Additional details about this effort will be available shortly!

Work at the 2013 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit culminated with a call to action video message featuring Mote Marine Laboratory Founder and Director Emeritus, Dr. Eugenie Clark, President and CEO of Youth Service America, Steve Culbertson, co-founder of the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards and ocean conservation advocate, Wendy Benchley, and President and CEO of EarthEcho International, Philippe Cousteau. 

A special thanks to our partners at Mote Marine Laboratory and the 2013 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit sponsors: Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, the Wyland Foundation, Wyland Galleries, Mote Scientific Foundation, SeaWorld/Busch Gardens, the International Ocean Institute – USA, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, ROI media,  Klean Kanteen, United by Blue, realtor Liz Arme, EarthEcho International, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, artist Ryan Sobel, the Florida Aquarium, Loxahatchee River Center, Expedition Florida 500, Operation: Blue Pride, Paradise Pops, Shark Whisperer Organization, Suncoast Print Solutions, The Fishes Wishes, Liquid Art Designs, and Robert Johnson fine art.

Attendees learning about youth-driven ocean conservation projects at the 2013 Community Ocean Conservation Film festival.  
Participants preparing for the kick-off of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit weekend with a screening of Operation: Blue Pride. 

Sarasota Bay Watch educational exhibit at the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit.

Participants receiving educational material on ocean conservation opportunities. 
Keynote speaker Justin Riney shares his adventures on Expedition Florida 500 and tells participants to, "Live with a passionate curiosity."

Teens from Baltimore, MD and the National Aquarium's Aquarium on Wheels program sharing their ocean conservation work. 

Over 190 youth and adults attended the summit from 8 states and Washington D.C.!

Participants learning about "Careers in Ocean Conservation". 

Students from Broward County Florida prepare an action plan for their ocean conservation project. 

Deb Kerr of YouthMuse speaks to summit participants about making a bigger difference with a better message.

Deborah Kinder, CEO/Executive Director of the Blue Ocean Film Festival leads a workshop on the power of great films to change the world. 

Stacey Rafalowski of EarthEcho International shares EarthEcho Expeditions and the use of Public Service Announcements as tools to communicate ocean conservation messages. 

Artist Ryan Sobel speaks to students about using art as tool to share their ocean conservation projects and messages. 

Lights, Camera, Action - students prepare to plan and film public service announcements about their newly planned ocean conservation projects.

A special thanks to our summit and sponsors for their support of this year's summit, and a big thanks to marine artist Wyland for designing the 2013 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit t-shirt. 

Mote Marine Laboratory Director Emeritus, Dr. Eugenie Clark helps close the summit through an inspirational call to action video message.