Note: This is another part of our Activist Spotlight series, where we shine a light on Care2 members who are making a difference in their communities.
To Care2 member Ryan Kempster, the ocean was always rather exotic. Growing up in an industrial town in England, he never had much of a chance to become familiar with beach sand, salt water and marine wildlife. Instead, he discovered that his true passion was marine biology by spending hours watching nature shows on television.
Now Ryan is in the midst of a PhD program at the University of Western Australia. He has traveled all over the world to protect the marine ecosystems he loves, monitoring Fiji’s coral reefs, rescuing sea turtles from poachers in Costa Rica, and restoring Thai mangrove forests. “I am one of those lucky few that get upset when I have to go home at the end of the day and canít wait to start work again the next day,” he laughs.
Ultimately, it is sharks that capture Ryan’s attention like nothing else. In fact, he is in Australia because he was awarded a prestigious international scholarship to conduct shark research at the University of Western Australia. He bemoans the fact that humans kill tens of millions of these ancient apex predators each year; in fact, according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), 32% of shark species are threatened with extinction, with another 20% are at risk of becoming threatened in the near future.
“Most sharks serve as top predators at the pinnacle of the marine food pyramid,” Ryan explains, “and so play a critical role in ocean ecosystems. Increased public awareness and engagement, as well as greater transparency and accountability in decision-making processes, are key to elevating the management priority of sharks and effectively conserving their populations.”
To this end, Ryan has set up Support Our Sharks (SOS), which has a corresponding Facebook page and a support base of 5,500 people. He is excited that 2011 was a†such great year for shark conservation, explaining that more and more countries are starting to make shark protection a priority, banning shark products and establishing shark trade bans. Areas of wide open ocean totaling twice the size of Greenland (1.8 million square miles) have been made into shark sanctuaries.
In the midst of his busy academic and advocacy schedule, Ryan thanks Care2 for helping with his recent anti-shark cull campaign, which gathered nearly 19,000 signatures from members like you.
“The ease at which you can set up an online petition is a key part of the Care2 appeal,” he says. “Within minutes of hearing about the proposed shark cull in Western Australia, I set up the Care2 petition and had people showing their support against the cull with a simple and quick click of a button. Care2 is a great and effective tool for gathering support and I look forward to making use of the site more in the future.”
Thank you, Ryan, for making a difference with Care2!