Message from Callie Veelenturf, Representative of Youth for Wildlife Conservation

“Life below water” – doesn’t it sound so romantic? The vast blue expanse has a universally calming, peace-inducing effect on the human race, yet for ocean wildlife actually living below water, a one-sided war is raging.

I am often asked why I spend a majority of my time studying sea turtles, when there are thousands of other species that need attention, many of which are even closer to extinction. Sea turtles are a flagship species, I would even call them a gateway species. It is easy to inspire school children and patrons alike to become involved in wildlife conservation by discussing the plight of these charismatic reptiles. By studying them and the threats affecting their survival, we open the doors to engaging conversations regarding the biggest threats facing our oceans today: climate change, destructive fishing practices and pollution.

By sparking passionate conversations about ocean conservation issues across country boundaries, occupations and generations, we have the opportunity to share knowledge and form partnerships for global change and positive action. Engaging the youth is particularly important, as people under the age of thirty represent over half of the world’s population. Many of us are dedicating our lives to protecting the world’s oceans through science, law, activism, education and outreach, but there are still many that are not able to rise through the ranks in the conservation community. To support the conservation and healing of our oceans, we must take further steps to support youth in turning their passions into successful careers. We must allocate more resources to employ early-career professionals to join the workforce of people dedicated to protecting our seas and marine life.

If I could live any time, I would live now. Now is a time when we already know what threats are causing the greatest detriment to our oceans, to planet health, and to the health of our endangered wildlife populations, and we know largely how to reduce our impacts. We have the solutions. Now is a time for taking action and responsibility, for promoting stewardship of our Earth, united as species Homo sapiens. After all, as far as we know, there is only one, inhabitable, blue planet.