From the behavior of Great Whites to the significance of small fish: the OAC event covered the gamut


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Two young Ocean Warriors kicked off the second annual Ocean Awareness Challenge at the FOA grounds this last Saturday. Sixth graders at Thurston Middle School, Sean Smith and Shane Benson, gave compelling Kids TED Talks to an attentive crowd. 

Teryl Campbell, their former fifth grade teacher who started the Ocean Warriors program, was seen braced against a railing, beaming, watching what her former students have moved on to accomplish.

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Sean Smith at the microphone

At the helm of the event, member of the Steering Committee Susie Campbell explains: “Once we’re taught, we become aware, and then we start to care.” 

As a Sea Captain, with her 110 ton license, Susie has been working off the local coasts for 17 years. It wasn’t until her friend Nancy Cole, who took her to a lecture at UCI, that she learned about acidification. 

“I was so unaware of the ocean that I was sailing on. The ocean absorbs all the carbon dioxide in the air. Nothing can live in an acidic environment. It causes decalcification in fish. We have to lessen our carbon footprint. We have to do everything we can [to stop] pumping carbon dioxide into the air. Like Jacque Cousteau says, ‘There are two fluids that all life needs to survive: air and water, and we’ve been treating both like garbage dumpsters.’ I took a class in Oceanography at Saddleback College, I took a class in meteorology, and the more I learned, the more I began to care.”

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Shane Benson greets Susie Campbell

On climate change, Susie is not open for debate: “Climate change is not a theory, it’s a fact. Climate change should be in all of the schoolbooks. It’s a really important issue right now.” She then shared a quote:

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” (Baba Dioum, 1968)

“All the money goes to underserved youth from the LA area to [enable them to] attend a three day science camp in Emerald Bay on Catalina Island. The whole reason for this event is to spread ocean awareness to adults, and at the same time raise money to send underserved youths to camp so that they can also become aware of the ocean’s problems.”

Last year, the amount raised by the organization allowed two classrooms (64 children) from Pasadena Unified’s Washington Steam Magnet Academy to attend an ocean awareness camp on Catalina Island. 

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Susie Campbell is passionate about the health of our oceans

Susie mentioned that they chose this school because kids there showed a drive for math and science, but were facing steep economic challenges. For some of the kids, sadly, getting three meals a day was the best part of the trip, according to Teryl.

First to speak was Michael Sutton of the Marine Life Protection Act. Sutton highlighted oil spills as one of the major problems that the ocean faces today. Showing photos of aquatic life not affected by oil, and photos of those that were affected by oil spills, made for dramatic viewing. The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe of 2010 was mentioned. As for our National Marine Sanctuaries, he urged everyone in attendance to write to our Congress to urge them to remain protected.

Second up, John B. O’Sullivan wowed the crowd with his account of capturing a juvenile great white shark, transporting it to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and then ultimately setting it free. O’Sullivan did get the greatest amounts of ooh’s and aah’s out of the three speakers. We’re talking about great whites, after all.

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Girl Scouts learn how to host an event

O’Sullivan is fascinated by the great white shark. He has been involved in tracking their juveniles. A video showed how a shark was captured, tagged, and then released. He showed the audience an actual tag that is inserted into the top dorsal fin of a shark The audience watched his Power Point presentation depicting one shark’s swimming pattern along California’s coast after another. One noticeable detail, according to O’Sullivan, is that the sharks do not leave the area if the water is warm. This then causes the population of the sharks to rise.

Last to speak was Dr. Geoff Shester. His focus being the little fish. Holy mackerel, you may say. Not too far off. According to Dr. Shester, mackerel, as well as other small fish including anchovies, are found in abundance in our seas. It doesn’t get a mention on the menu, though. What you might find fascinating is this: obtaining these small fish and adding them to one’s diet, in terms of minimizing carbon footprint and gaining a good source of protein, they beat out tofu and peanut butter, according to Dr. Shester.

Finally, Humpbacks, the newest IMAX film on ocean life, was shown. Attendees were handed out bags of popcorn and got to enjoy some quality time with friends and family who had shown their shared resolve to heal our precious resource.

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