Grayson Schleppegrell, Age 13

Charleston, SC

SWORDFISH PROTECTION

 


"My role in this project was initially as an equal in the group. I then became captivated by these fishes' problem. During the year I took charge of the operation to buyout longliners after asking my father about farmers allowing their fields to lay fallow and being paid by the government. I made the correlation of the fields being the ocean and the crops to the fish. My idea was then reinforced by the group and presented to congress [in conjunction with several other groups working on this campaign] where it was implemented. I also passionately continued to write letters and e-mail worldwide companies out of school asking for their cooperation and rallying fellow students to do the same as the year ended and to work over the summer. I am president of the local Youth Force Advisory Board so I recruited and educated them so they could write letters to restaurants and grocery stores. I am still actively involved three years after the school-based project came to an end and can occasionally convince a store to reduce or stop selling swordfish."



  Acceptance Speech

 

It is my bestowed honor to accept this prestigious award. I, however, am not
the only person deserving of such an award as I worked with a team of
classmates who also passionately worked as I did towards this campaign.
I first was required to this project as a school long-term assignment.

Upon beginning it the group and I became passionately involved and had no problem working on the project even though it was for a school grade. The program we used as a guide is called Community Action Problem Solving (CAPS) which is a program of Earth Force. Earth Force is young people changing their communities now, while developing life long habits of active citizen ship and environmental stewardship. Many people think of Earth Force as kids picking up trash at a park. Through Earth Force, however, students learn to create lasting sociological and political changes in their community. So instead of picking up the trash they arrange for trashcans and recycle bins to be placed in the park.

Our project was addressed when we created an environmental inventory of
feasible problems to try and solve in our community. A representative from
the South Carolina Aquarium came to our class and told us of the swordfish
and their troubles. They informed us that swordfish were being caught by
longline fishing in mass numbers off fragile nursery communities off the
South Carolina coast then being thrown back dead as they were too small to
keep towards a quota. We unanimously voted to do the project because it had
the potential to be as big or as small as we wanted it to be and it
interested us. We then researched and developed a plan of action.

Part of this plan involved speaking at a press conference at a marine
biology center. Since this was a sensitive subject many showed at this
public hearing to address their views on long line fishing and the
harvesting of swordfish. As we got up to speak, at the time being fifth
grade kids in front of a bunch of hostile adults for the first time, someone
said, "What are they going to do, sing?" We had prepared our speeches time
in advance and knew our stuff. Upon finishing we received a standing ovation
and were later quoted by others, who had planned to speak as, " The
Springfield kids summed it up" From our address at the hearing we were
invited to speak before our congressional representatives through an
organization called SEAweb in Washington, DC. This trip turned out to be a
great success as we ultimately banned longline fishing in sensitive nursery
areas off the eastern seaboard and Florida coast during swordfish breeding
periods. It proves that no matter what the odds are or how great the
dissension If you know what you believe and truly express that belief then
you can accomplish anything even if you are only a kid.

I owe a great deal to my fellow classmates and my extraordinary teacher who
is here tonight since another great support, my dad could not attend. She
transformed me from an introverted shy kid to what I am today. She is a
great influence to me and has taught me not only about swordfish but also
about life. Speaking in front of groups now is not a fear nor is expressing
my true beliefs on an issue. She along with others have inspired me through
the campaign and through my life.

To help with the lasting campaign against commercial extinction of swordfish
you can: not eat swordfish, not buy swordfish, and not sell swordfish and
not over fish swordfish.

I would like to close with a quote that has led us through the hard times
and the good. Margaret Mead once so eloquently said:

Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can make a difference; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.


-- GRAYSON SCHLEPPEGRELL

 

2ND ANNUAL  P Brower Youth Awards