Eastshore Elementary School sixth-graders, from left, Lawrence Lai, Cade Turner, Chad Gibbon, Samantha Yuhan, Yahel Michael and Emily Ha display their second-place certificates in the 2011 QuikSCience Challenge at an awards ceremony Thursday in Huntington Beach. Behind them is their faculty adviser, Eastshore sixth-grade teacher Bill Brooks. COURTESY OF KEVIN LAI
Published: April 8, 2011
Updated: April 9, 2011 12:40 p.m.
Irvine kids continue shark-fin advocacy, win contest
By SCOTT MARTINDALE
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
IRVINE – A group of local sixth-graders who became advocates of a statewide ban on shark fin sales after entering a local science contest has taken second place in that competition, even as they continue their statewide advocacy efforts.
The team of six children at Eastshore Elementary School in Irvine took second place Thursday in the middle school division of the 2011 QuikSCience Challenge, which invites middle and high school students from across Southern California to write an ocean-related academic curriculum that includes a community service component. The Eastshore team’s project focused on shark ecology.
“This is a huge accomplishment for us considering that we were a sixth-grade team against many seventh- and eighth-grade teams,” team member Caden Turner, an Eastshore sixth-grader, said in an e-mail.
Although their project began as an entry into the QuikSCience contest in February, it quickly blossomed into an indefinite advocacy effort. The Eastshore team started a website devoted to the issue (www.ilovesharks.org), met with local elected representatives and began selling “I Love Sharks” T-shirts for $10 on its website and in a handful of Orange County stores.
The students have sold about 375 of the shirts so far, said faculty adviser Bill Brooks, an Eastshore sixth-grade teacher. Proceeds will be donated to the shark conservation groups Shark Trust and Imanya Oceanica.
Assembly Bill 376, introduced in February by state Assemblymen Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, would halt all trade of shark fins in California.
AB 376 passed its first legislative committee hearing March 22, receiving unanimous support from the state Assembly’s Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee, according to news reports.
But it is opposed by some Asian-American leaders as unfairly targeting their culture and cuisine. Shark fin soup is a classic dish traditionally served at Chinese banquets.
Federal law already prohibits shark-skimming, which is the practice of capturing sharks, cutting off their fins and tails, and then throwing them back into the ocean to die.
Some conservationists estimate that as many as 100 million sharks worldwide are killed each year for their fins, according to National Geographic magazine. The United Nations has pegged that estimate at a much lower figure – 10 million – while a 2006 British study suggested it was 38 million annually, the magazine reported.
What is clear, though, is that the worldwide shark population has been decimated – a consequence, many scientists believe, of the demand for shark fins.
Eastshore’s six team members – who include Chad Gibbon, Emily Ha, Lawrence Lai, Yahel Michael and Samantha Yuhan – became interested in the project after watching the 2007 documentary “Sharkwater,” an expose on the shark-hunting industry. All of Eastshore’s sixth-graders were invited to write an essay on why they wanted to be on the team, and Brooks chose the top six.
The Eastshore team already has met with state Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, and representatives for state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, and has gathered about 200 signatures in support of the bill. Next up is a letter-writing campaign to other state lawmakers, Brooks said.
For winning second place in the QuikSCience Challenge, the students received a certificate, a Quiksilver backpack, a Quiksilver Foundation shirt and water bottle, and a solar radio/light. Brooks’ classroom received $250 to use for science instructional materials, and the team will spend four days at the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island in June.