Steffon Evans, who coordinates the Bahamas National Trust’s senior youth group – the Navigators – was recently selected by the US State Department to participate in a leadership exchange programme focusing on marine conservation.
The goal of the US government programme is to enable emerging leaders from around the world to cultivate lasting relationships. Participants are selected annually by US Embassies.
“We want to thank the US Embassy here for providing this incredible opportunity for Steffon,” said BNT Executive Director Eric Carey. “It testifies to the excellent relationship we share. Steffon was an excellent choice and he represented the BNT and our country well.”
Evans is a graduate of C.V. Bethel Senior High School’s Magnet Marine Science Programme. He studied in the College of The Bahamas’ Small Island Sustainability Programme and is currently pursuing environmental studies online with Southern New Hampshire University.
During and after high school he took part in numerous volunteer opportunities with conservation, civic and faith-based groups around The Bahamas. At the BNT he currently directs the Navigator clubs – an environmental education programme for young people between 13 and 25.
As a participant in the US exchange programme, Evans joined 22 other young conservation leaders from different countries at marine science events in San Francisco, California; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and Washington DC.
They took part in workshops on marine protected areas and integrated coastal management; ocean conservation advocacy; sustainable fisheries; and the impact of marine debris on ocean ecosystems.
The climax of the exchange was in Washington, where participants attended the third Our Ocean Conference hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry. The meeting enabled stakeholders from around the globe to commit to marine conservation measures.
Some 450 international delegates attended the two-day event, including foreign ministers, environment and fisheries ministers, and other leaders in government, science, industry, and civil society.
Secretary Kerry told the conference that the oceans are under tremendous pressure from human activity – including unsustainable and illegal fishing, marine pollution, and climate-related impacts.
“The ocean is so vast and powerful that most people think nothing can possibly harm it,” Kerry said. “But we have learned that is not true. The challenges facing our oceans respect no boundaries, so we have to come up with global solutions.”
“Since the first Our Oceans conference two years ago,” Kerry said, “governments and business leaders have pledged $4 billion in new maritime sustainability initiatives and committed to safeguard almost six million square kilometres in marine protected areas.”
In Washington, Evans developed an Ocean Pledge and Action Plan for The Bahamas during Georgetown University’s Youth Leadership Summit, which paralleled the main Our Ocean conference. The summit’s aimed to build leadership strategies to tackle threats to ocean health.
“My pledge relates to the BNT programme that I co-manage.” Evans said. “We are launching a series of mini-projects to give hundreds of young people, from dozens of groups, across 10 islands, the guidance and tools they need to do meaningful service in our national parks – all of which are connected either directly or indirectly to the health of our ocean.”
Evans said he was inspired and impressed by the presentations and field trips hosted by renowned institutions like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US National Park Service, Bodega Marine Lab, University of New Hampshire, and the Smithsonian Institute.
“I can’t help but be hopeful about the future after being immersed in the many conservation measures that people all over the United States are taking to save our ocean, while being surrounded by 22 other like-minded young people from almost every region of the planet.” Evans said. “I’m returning home to continue with passion my role in the hard work of the BNT to manage our national parks and preserve our future!”
The main conference in Washington DC was also attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, Environment Minister Ken Dorsett, and BNT Executive Director Eric Carey.