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A 13-year-old's Fight to Save Sharks, One Signature at a Time

Noah Pollock is a 13-year old 8th grader, who in April 2011 started a petition to ban the sale of shark products in Sudbury, Ontario, his hometown.

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First intrigued by marine life and the ocean at age 3, Noah’s unique passion for the ocean took off when he was seven years old. Today Noah is a growing activist in the shark community and aspires to one day be a shark biologist or ichthyologist specializing in cartilaginous fish.

In an interview with WildAid, Noah Pollock shares how he first learned about the global shark crisis, the steps he took to create a petition, and how young people can become involved in stopping the global decline of sharks.

WildAid: How and when did you first learn about the global shark crisis and shark finning issues?

Noah Pollock: I started researching them when I was seven years old, then slowly learned about the [shark] issues. I researched sharks on the internet and would watch TV shows about sharks. I also read a lot of books on sharks.

WildAid: Prior to starting your petition, did you learn about globally declining wildlife populations, including sharks, in school? Do you think this topic should be covered in classroom curriculum? If so, how can it be best incorporated?

Noah Pollock: No, I didn’t learn about marine and shark issues in school. I definitely think these topics should be covered in the classroom, especially since sharks are so vital to our ecosystems—people should know why we need them. Most people think sharks are reckless killers. People should know [sharks] for what they really are—beautiful, but misunderstood creatures that are very important to the ocean. 

WildAid: Other than you and your close friends, are many of your classmates aware of global conservation issues like shark finning?

Noah Pollock: No, not many of my classmates are aware, but possibly some are because I’ve told them. The first time I showed my classmates, friends and parents photos [of shark finning] they were shocked.

WildAid: How did you come up with the idea to create a petition?

Noah Pollock: In class during a lesson we were reading a story about a 13 or 14 year old boy who petitioned to save a swamp in his community. I was inspired by the story and thought that I could do the same thing to help save sharks.

WildAid: How did you go about starting a petition? How did you collect signatures?

Noah Pollock: First I wrote the petition—I wrote who I was, what I wanted, and why I wanted it. Then I started getting signatures from family members and close friends, but I didn’t want to bias my results, so I started going door-to-door throughout the community. I would collect signatures anytime I had free time—on the weekends, in the summer, after school.

WildAid: Have you submitted the petition to the Mayor of Sudbury Ontario? If not, when do you hope to submit it?

Noah Pollock: No, I want to get more signatures and coverage on the petition before I submit it to the mayor. So far I have 252 hand-collected signatures and over 1000 online. I want to collect another 300-500 signatures before I submit the petition.

WildAid: What’s next after this petition? What are your future plans and goals?

Noah Pollock: If I submit the petition and it’s passed, then the first thing I’ll do is celebrate. Then I’ll probably make another petition, like to support the Ontario [shark fin] ban or reach out to another ban.

WildAid: In your opinion, how can other marine- and shark-related conservation organizations, like WildAid, better reach the public, especially young people like yourself?

Noah Pollock: Young people are attracted to their future—we have it in mind a lot. Our future is important since we have our whole life in front of us. If you tell young people that something could threaten their future, then it will spark their interest and they will want to learn more.

WildAid: And finally, can you give any advice as to how young people in middle school and high school can get involved in marine conservation issues? What are the first steps for a young person, like yourself, to start being active on a topic they are passionate about?

Noah Pollock: The first step is knowing about your topic. You have to be well educated on the topic and be sure of what you’re fighting for. Once you know, then you can take steps, like spreading the word, starting petitions, and working within the community.

To sign Noah's petition, click here.

To sign WildAid's Global Shark Pledge, click here.