Happy New Year!

As we begin 2017, our oceans need us more than ever!  Did you know every year 8,000,000 metric tons of plastic enter the ocean?  Americans throw away 60 million plastic water bottles a day. At this rate, by the year 2050 plastic will exceed the number of fish in our oceans. If this disturbs you, it should!  We need everyone to become an Ocean Steward. 

With my first semester at Duke completed, it is clear ocean research is more important than ever with study of the epigenetics and genomics leading the way to formulate future policy regarding fisheries and marine protected areas. I want to share a few highlights from my fall:

1) Our Oceans Conference 

I was fortunate to attend John Kerry’s Our Ocean Summit in Washington, D.C. in September as a member of EarthEcho International’s Youth Leadership Council. It was an incredible opportunity to meet like-minded people from around the world who are committed to helping our oceans. The inspiring speakers ranged from US Secretary of State John Kerry to Sylvia Earle (Mission Blue) to Phillipe Cousteau (founder of EarthEcho International). It was exciting to sit and listen to countries announce their goals for the year.  Protecting our oceans and planet takes vision, hard work, and collaboration of all countries and people. It is a shared responsibility to care and advocate for our oceans.

2) 3T4E (Three pieces of Trash For the Earth)

Thank you to everyone who participated in EarthEcho International’s project, 3T4E.  I was pleased EarthEcho International selected my concept as their first Youth Leadership Council Initiative. While I would have liked to have more lead-time, the results are impressive. Social media reached 1,624,016 people in 19 countries and 24 states with 469 posts with #3T4E. Look for 3T4E this fall and be sure to post your photo. In the meantime, make every day a 3T4E Day! Pick up 3 pieces of Trash 4 the Earth every day!

3) Sailors for the Sea Gala

I was honored to be recognized for my ocean conservation work at Sailors for the Sea’s annual gala fund raiser hosted by David and Susan Rockefeller and Stephen & Wendy Lash at Christie's in New York City. Fellow awardees included Dr. Enric Sala (National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence & Executive Director of Pristine Seas), Ian Walker (two-time Olympic Silver Medalist & winning skipper of the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race), and Charles Goddard (Editorial Director, Asia-pacific, The Economist Intelligence Unit & Executive Director of the Economist's World Ocean Summit).  Sailors for the Sea engages, educates, inspires, and activates the sailing and boating communities toward healing the ocean. Speaking to a crowd of over 200 whose generosity that evening raised over $880,000 for ocean conservation, I spoke of my life-long love of the ocean and passion for its preservation. Thank you US Sailing for sponsoring my award and Sailors for the Sea for believing in me and allowing me to serve as their ambassador.

As we look ahead, think about what YOU can do to help our oceans:

1)    Choose sustainable seafood.

2)   Say no to single use plastics.

3)   Skip the plastic straw and lid.

4)   Get involved with an ocean conservation group.

5)    Pick up three pieces of trash EVERY day and convince your friends to do the same! 

Here is to a healthier ocean in 2017!

- D'amy Steward