Brower Youth Awards

Sean Russell

North Port, FL

Launching an educational campaign about marine debris

As a native Floridian, Sean Russell grew up enjoying life near the ocean. His interest in protecting marine environments was sparked by his involvement in 4-H marine science projects, as well as a high school internship at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. When he was 16, he created the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project, an effort to combat the negative impact of marine debris – especially discarded fishing line and gear – on marine wildlife. Youth involved with the project turn re-purposed tennis ball containers into fishing line recycling bins and distribute them to anglers while educating them about the importance of proper disposal of their line. Since its launch, the project has expanded to engage youth and partner organizations in 10 states.

In 2011 Russell launched the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit at the Mote Lab. This annual summit provides youth with the skills needed to launch their own conservation projects and has inspired hundreds of students across the country to get involved in ocean conservation. A series of satellite summits are starting this year, beginning with the National Aquarium and the Seattle Aquarium.