Caitlyn RuskellApril 18, 2012Mrs. Tillery6th Period Senior Project Speech Good evening, my name is Caitlyn Ruskell, and I am about to show you a shortcommercial exposing a cruel and unusual practice known as shark finning. Viewerdiscretion is advised.*Show video* So now you may ask, what exactly is shark finning? Well, shark finning is processby which fisherman catch sharks, remove their fins, and throw the still living sharks backinto the water to die. Shark fins are the most profitable seafood item in the world, andthey’re used to add texture, not event taste, to a Chinese delicacy known as shark finsoup. Each year we kill about 73 million sharks worldwide solely for their fins, and weare pushing many species, like the whale shark and the great shark species to the brink ofextinction. Many people don’t see the problem with this, however after discovering mypassion for sharks this summer at Sea Camp in Big Pine Key, Florida and doing myresearch paper on the plight and importance of sharks, I do see a problem. Without sharksto maintain ocean populations, entire ecosystems are collapsing, and since humansdepend so heavily on the ocean, our way of life and even our ability to live will cease toexist if sharks cease to exist. Today there are very few laws in place prohibiting sharkfinning, and one reason there are few laws is because a lot of people don’t know about it,and if they do, they underestimate the significance of this problem. So, in order to raise awareness of this important issue, I decided to create acampaign that consisted of the commercial you saw at the beginning of my presentation,spreading my message through word of mouth, and even creating these bumper stickersto advocate the banning of shark finning. (Proceeds to pick up bumper sticker) To create my commercial, I used the trailer from a documentary calledSharkwater that I first saw at Sea Camp. The footage of the shark swimming overheadwas my own, captured when I went to the Georgia Aquarium to investigate the secondhalf of my project, which I will touch on later. My commercial aired twice on themorning announcements at school and I was greatly surprised at all the positive feedbackI got from it. This ranged from people coming up to me telling me that they were reallysurprised at what was happening to sharks, to even hearing that Dr. Webb, the physicsteacher here at Creekview spent some time talking to his class about sharks after seeingmy commercial. During my campaign, I ended up telling just about everyone I knew, andeven those I didn’t know like Sra. Patrick’s 6th period class, about the trouble that sharksare in and what they could do to help them. The other aspect of this campaign was to raise money for the Georgia Aquarium’sWhale Shark Research Program by creating these bumper stickers online and sellingthem for $2 each. I sold the stickers at school and at the saltwater aquarium store ImagineOcean, and in order to motivate people to buy them I set up and incentive program where
all buyers would automatically be entered into a drawing to win 2 tickets to the GeorgiaAquarium. I only ended up raising $250, but that’s okay because its money the programdid not already have. The other half of my project was to get my Open Water Diver Certification withthe Whale Shark Specialty Certification from the Professional Association of DivingInstructors also known as PADI. I did both of these over spring break. To get my Openwater certification, I went down to Rainbow Reef Dive Center in Key Largo and spentmost of the week with my instructor, Madison, learning the basics of diving and going onsix open water dives. I saw some very unique specimens during these dives, including a6ft nurse shark on my first dive ever. Once I got my open water certification, myinstructor ended up liking me so much that she offered to be my dive guide on the privatedive I got from buying my scuba gear through Rainbow Reef, and through this dive I gotmy PADI Underwater Photographer Specialty Certification. Before I knew it, it was timeto come home so that I could go to the aquarium and dive with the whale sharks, thelargest sharks in the world. Alice, the biggest whale shark at the aquarium, is about 22ftlong and weighs about 3500lbs. Her mouth is also about 6 feet wide, so luckily the day Iwent diving I was not an item on the menu. At the aquarium, I was able to have somevery close encounters with all four whale sharks and I got my PADI Whale SharkSpecialty Certification. The reason I got these certifications was so that I could furtherprepare myself for a career in marine biology and shark conservation, and it wasdefinitely an amazing experience I will never forget. Throughout my project, I received a lot of helpful insight from my projectfacilitator Juanita Forrester. Dr. Forrester got her Masters in Entomology in 2003 and herPhD in Entomology and Systematics in 2008, both from The University of Georgia. Shecurrently teaches anatomy and physiology at Chattahoochee Technical College andKennesaw State University. Dr. Forrester really helped me to create a project with somescientific merit and I am very grateful that she agreed to be my facilitator. She alsohelped me to overcome many of the challenges I faced during my project. While doing my senior project, I faced many challenges, some large some small,but overall nothing I couldn’t overcome. At first, my biggest challenge was decidingwhat my products would be, I wanted to do much more than four but realized that timeonly allowed for four. Other challenges came when sticker sales were not as high as I hadhoped. Unfortunately, most people interested in my project had no money on them. OnceI got into the water, I faced a new challenge: avoiding the people in my scuba class thatwere far from being “naturals” at scuba diving, much less swimming. Luckily I was ableto avoid them long enough to complete my project. Doing this senior project taught me many things that will help me in the future.Through my research I learned exactly why sharks are so important and how I couldconvince people to believe they are. The first half of my project taught me how to createand run a marketing campaign, work with people and network, and speak to people aboutissues I feel strongly about. The second half of my project taught me all about the oceanand its inhabitants, the basics of scuba diving, the fact that I am prone to seasickness, andall about the elusive whale shark. After completing this project I know for sure that Iwant to pursue a career in marine biology and I plan to dedicate a lot of time and effortinto shark conservation during my lifetime.
All in all, I am really glad that they made us do a senior project. I learned aboutmyself and was able to make myself better qualified for the career I want to pursue. I wasalso able to make a difference in my school and in the lives of whale sharks. I amhonored that I was able to share my experiences with you all today and I am also happythat I get to make more people aware of the threats sharks face. If you would like to learnmore about the plight of sharks or even how to help, visit sharkangels.com. Thank youfor your time.