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  • Shelby O'Neil

2018 Bow Seat Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition


Bow Seat is Activating the next wave of ocean leaders through the arts, science, and advocacy.

“We have to spread the word. We have to show the world what we’ve done. We have to make changes. We have to be the change.”

Each year Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs challenge teens from all over the world to create awareness of the issues facing our oceans. The Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition challenges students from around the world to design and lead a campaign in their school or community that creatively educates others and inspires action to reduce or prevent marine debris. The Ocean Awareness Contest is Bow Seat's international awareness contest that accepts visual art, poetry, prose, film, and music submissions.


Creating awareness to single-use plastic pollution has been my mission for the last few year years. Being fortunate to have been accepted into the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Young Women in Science program and then their Teen Conservation Leadership program, I was educated on our ocean and the need to protect it. I spoke to visiting guests at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but I knew that I had to take action on a larger scale. Founding Jr Ocean Guardians for my Girl Scouts Gold Award project and creating the No Straw November movement helped provide the needed platform to get my awareness message out to more people on a global scale. Creating the No Straw November Challenge was just one piece of my awareness campaign. The issue of single-use plastics is much bigger than one person, and to be successful, it takes an ocean of people spreading the message. I was fortunate to have the support of Ocean Elders, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Last Plastic Straw, the California Coastal Commission, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Lone Whale, Heal the Bay, Surfrider, Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from around the world and many more organizations and people. It's been an incredible journey, and there is still much more awareness needed.


My awareness campaign has been recognized by Bow Seat as their 2018 Bow Seat Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition Gold Award recipient. I'm so honored to receive this award, and I share it with everyone that is bringing awareness to single-use plastic. Congratulations to all of the 2018 winners, please click here to read about their journeys and what they are doing to build awareness to the health of our oceans. Please support Bow Seat by getting involved and with Bow Seat events and exhibits, hosting Bow Seat art, shop the talented ocean advocates art, and donating to help support youth ocean advocacy.

Lastly, many thanks to a grant given by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program. This generous grant supports Bow Seat and other projects that use outreach and education to inspire people to reduce and prevent marine debris.

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