“On World Oceans Day, people of all ages celebrate and honour the ocean, connecting us all. Sea Youth Rise Up empowers young people to step up as leaders at an early age, and engage them in a solutions-oriented approach to ocean conservation.”

On 8 June, the world celebrated World Oceans Day; a unique opportunity to honour, protect, and conserve the world’s oceans. Alexandra Thomsen and Danni Washington, from Sea Youth Rise Up, write for the IPF about the need to empower young people to engage with the efforts towards ocean conservation, as well as the need for ocean activism to continue beyond World Oceans Day.


Today is World Oceans Day – a day on which we work to protect the global ocean and celebrate its importance in our lives.

We all had different reasons for wanting to conserve the ocean. Some of us were inspired into action after seeing the effects of pollution in our coastal communities. Some learned about how ocean problems start in our inland communities and felt the need to raise awareness about the issue. Some have an insatiable curiosity for marine life. And others were motivated by the unrecognised reliance that every person on the planet has on the ocean.

Despite the huge challenges facing the world’s ocean, by working together, we can support a healthy ocean that is able to sustainably provide for the billions of humans, plants, and animals that depend on it every day.

Sea Youth Rise Up is a new initiative to empower young people to step up as leaders at an early age and engage them in a solutions-oriented approach to ocean conservation. Launching for World Oceans Day 2016 with the goal of creating a youth movement for year-round ocean action, this new campaign is facilitated by The Ocean Project, led by Danni Washington of The Big Blue & You and Sean Russell of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit.

Youth leaders at the heart of the ocean debate

Sea Youth Rise Up campaign has seven youth leaders, which include five Americans, a Canadian and a Bahamian. Together we hosted a youth call to action for ocean conservation on 8 and 9 June in New York City and Washington DC. The address was live-streamed from the New York Aquarium on World Oceans Day via Google Hangouts On Air. During the live stream, the youth leaders spoke passionately about what the ocean means to them and what inspired them to become involved in the project.

A 19-year-old youth leader participating in the live broadcast said:

“I’m incredibly passionate about our oceans and the importance of ocean literacy. Every single living this on this planet has something in common and that is the oceans, and if we lose the oceans, we’re basically losing our future.”

An 18-year-old who works at the Baltimore Aquarium also joined in, explaining that connecting youth with the ocean is one of the most important things society can do. She said that although people think there is nothing that can be done about the environment, she believes there is lots to do, with one of the most important things being to spread awareness and knowledge: “When everybody’s on the same page, we can start to make a difference.”

Another youth leader, a 14-year-old, said that living in the Bahamas, surrounded by water all the time, has shown him all the negative things that are happening to the oceans. He noted that his island doesn’t have a recycling system, but everything they use contains plastic, which eventually ends up in the ocean. He urged other young people to stop using plastic and switch to alternatives.

Ensuring the youth movement continues

The young leaders also travelled to Washington DC on 9 June, where they participated in a round-table meeting, a presentation, and other related events as part of Capitol Hill Ocean Week, including participating in a live broadcast. The purpose of these talks and presentations will be to discuss the importance of youth leadership in ocean conservation and to set the stage for continuing action in this arena.

To help further advance this campaign, Danni and Sean will are developing a short documentary highlighting these events and the journey of these young people. The film will be distributed through an online platform to schools, zoos and aquarium youth programs in the hope that this initiative will continue to grow throughout 2016, and far beyond.

On World Oceans Day, people of all ages around our blue planet celebrate and honour the ocean, connecting us all. The mission of the Sea Youth Rise Up campaign is to convey that everyone can make an impact by working together.

Working together, we can and will protect our shared ocean.

Watch the full live-stream of on the launch day of Sea Youth Rise Up.