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REF NO.: 94

SUBJECT: Marine Institute to continue Ocean Net youth conferences

DATE: Dec. 18,2009

The Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) of Memorial University of Newfoundland is pleased to announce it will continue the very successful Youth and Oceans Conferences which have been organized by Ocean Net for the past 11 years.
The Youth and Oceans Conferences have celebrated the role of youth in marine environmental activity in Newfoundland and Labrador for the past 11 years. Junior high and high school students and teachers attend the conferences each year, taking part in day-long series of thought-provoking presentations and interactive discussions with a focus on marine environmental issues representing leadership and career opportunities for youth.
 “The Marine Institute is proud to carry on Ocean Net legacy projects such as the Youth and Ocean Conferences,” said Keith Mercer, chair, Advanced Diploma in Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management program, School of Fisheries, Marine Institute. “MI aims to build upon the great work completed by Ocean Net and we look forward to furthering its mandate to instill an ocean conservation ethic.”
The Youth and Ocean Conferences have a tradition of engaging youth in direct discussions on environmental issues. Students interact with experts in the fields of fisheries and marine conservation, ecology of marine birds and marine transportation.
Four Youth and Ocean Conferences are planned for 2010, with the first one taking place at the Marine Institute on Feb.12. This conference will focus on oceans sustainability – what it means to us, our role in it and our opportunities to take action. More than 150 students and teachers are expected to attend.
Conferences will also be held in Corner Brook, Labrador and on the Burin Peninsula later in the year. All four events are coordinated by Justin Dearing, former provincial director with Ocean Net and current conference coordinator with MI.
Funding for the conferences is provided by the Provincial Government’s Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development and through financial support previously secured by Ocean Net.
“Ocean Net took a lot of pride in providing the youth of Newfoundland and Labrador with these conferences and we are happy to see the Marine Institute is ensuring these events continue to take place,” said Robert O’Brien, founder and volunteer chair, Ocean Net. “The Youth and Ocean Conferences play a valuable role in the development of youth who wish to further their studies of oceans and marine issues. I look forward to following the progress of these conferences for years to come.”
Ocean Net was founded in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1997. It was a grassroots, non-government organization mandated to instill an ocean conservation ethic and work with community volunteers to take action in support of a sustainable marine environment. Through the development of education-by-action programs and initiatives, Ocean Net and its network of volunteers have been successful in making positive changes in the areas of marine conservation, waste management, youth education, youth empowerment and climate change mitigation.
Ocean Net has a legacy of environmental leadership in the province and has won many provincial and national awards. In 2004, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador formally proclaimed Ocean Net Day in the province to be the third Friday of September annually in celebration of Ocean Net’s history of proactive and positive environmental education and action.
When Mr. O’Brien indicated that he was retiring from Ocean Net to focus on other business and environmental interests, the Marine Institute agreed to take over some of the organization’s projects. MI will also continue Ocean Net’s core environmental program – the cleanup of community beaches, shorelines and underwater areas throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Since its inception, Ocean Net has worked with more than 32,000 community volunteers and has spearheaded 1,600 cleanups, some of which were between 18 and 25 kilometres long and involved the coordinated support of up to 16 communities,” said Glenn Blackwood, executive director, MI. “The Marine Institute plans to reach out to these volunteers in the future to ensure these projects continue to have such a positive impact on our shorelines, beaches and underwater areas.”
To learn more about the Youth and Oceans Conferences, visit www.mi.mun.ca/mioceannet.

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For more information, please contact Darcy MacRae, public relations/communications officer, Fisheries and Marine Institute, at (709) 778-0677, (709) 687-2205, Darcy.MacRae@mi.mun.ca or Kimberley Thornhill, educational marketing co-ordinator, Fisheries and Marine Institute, at (709) 778-0544, (709) 691-9221, Kim.Thornhill@mi.mun.ca.
 
Backgrounder
Youth and Oceans Conferences
The Youth and the Oceans Conference for the Avalon Region will take place at the Marine Institute in St. John’s on Friday, Feb.12. This is one of four conferences planned for 2010. The other conferences take place in Corner Brook, Burin and a yet-to-be announced location in Labrador. All four
conferences will concentrate on the role of youth in marine environmental activity in the province.
More than 150 junior and senior high school students and teachers are expected to attend the Youth and the Oceans Conference at the Marine Institute. The conference aims to bring youth together in a day-long series of thought-provoking presentations and interactive discussions. This event will focus on marine environmental issues which represent leadership and career opportunities for youth. The theme is sustainability – what it means to us, our role in it and our opportunities to take action.
In keeping with the conference’s tradition of engaging youth, the youth forum will give students the opportunity to have their voices heard. Through direct participation in discussions on environmental issues, students engage in the issues that matter most to them. 
Several environmental excellence awards will be presented to youth and community heroes at the Avalon conference. Provincial winners will be announced for the Community Environmental Stewardship Award – Community Category; Eco-Champ Award – School Category; Youth Environmental Stewardship Award – Youth Category and Local Heroes Award – Individual Volunteer Category.
A student art challenge will take place at each Youth and Oceans Conference. The subject for all entries is global marine pollution and entries will be accepted for visual art (painting, sculpture, drawing and photography) and writing (short story, poetry and essay).
 
Ocean Net
Ocean Net was founded in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1997 by environmentalist Robert O’Brien. It was a grassroots, non-government organization mandated to instill an ocean conservation ethic and work with community volunteers to take action in support of a sustainable marine environment. 
Through the development of education-by-action programs and initiatives, Ocean Net volunteers aimed to make positive changes in the areas of marine conservation, waste management, youth education, youth empowerment and climate change mitigation.
Ocean Net won numerous provincial and national awards during its 12 years of existence. Most recently, Ocean Net founder and volunteer chair Robert O’Brien won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 NL Environmental Awards. In 2008, Ocean Net won the Canadian Geographic’s Environmental Award (silver) in the conservation category in recognition of its efforts to protect and preserve the beach, shoreline and underwater areas of Newfoundland and Labrador. 
Ocean Net was also named the winner of the 2007 Earth Day Canada Hometown Heroes Achievement Award for O’Brien’s 10-year contribution to      
marine conservation. In 2006, Ocean Net was rewarded with the Doug Wheeler Tourism Award for its contribution to the tourism industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In 2004, the Provincial Government declared Ocean Net Day in the province to be the third Friday of September annually to celebrate the organization’s proactive environmental actions.
Ocean Net’s core environmental program has always been the cleanup of community beaches, shorelines and underwater areas throughout the province. Since 1997, Ocean Net has organized 1,600 such cleanups with the help of more than 32,000 volunteers. Some of the cleanups were between 18 and 25 kilometres long and included the coordinated support of up to 16 communities. 

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