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From Junior Docent to Junior Leader

Many successful students have roots at CMA and William Whittenbury, a junior at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, is a perfect example. He started as a Sea Ranger and a Junior Docent, volunteering to share his marine science knowledge with visitors at the beach, tidepools, and inside the Aquarium. But while most young volunteers discover their newfound passion for the ocean and great outdoors at the Aquarium, Whittenbury made the connection much earlier.

When he was in third grade, he launched the Muskwa Club as a way to encourage kids to participate in outdoor activities. Since then it has evolved into a national organization with 30 student-run chapters located in six different states across the country. The club’s mission is to “accomplish good in the world,” which it does through educational functions, fields trips, speaking opportunities and community service.

In particular, the Muskwa Club has taken on one issue near and dear to Whittenbury’s heart…saving the vaquita. The vaquita is a critically endangered porpoise, with an estimated 120 to 150 animals left living in a very limited range of the northern Gulf of California. Many vaquitas meet an untimely demise as bycatch in shrimp trawls and it’s now the most endangered marine mammal in the world.

As part of his efforts to raise awareness of the vaquita’s plight, Whittenbury has hosted a table display at Aquarium events including Autumn Sea Fair, Whale Fiesta and Earth Day. This past summer he took education and outreach to the next level by partnering with the American Cetacean Society-Los Angeles Chapter (ACS-LA) to launch the 1st annual Save the Vaquita Day on July 6, 2013.

“Save the Vaquita Day was a collaborative public awareness event that took place at the Aquarium and across the country. It was a big success,” said Diane Alps, CMA’s Programs Coordinator and also President of ACS-LA. “William and I organized this event to give participants in eight cities nationwide the chance to learn how they can help protect the vaquita by making wise seafood choices. There were vaquita presentations, table displays, crafts and puzzles.”

Whittenbury also worked with Alps to set up a fund to raise money for purchasing safe nets designed to catch shrimp without accidentally catching vaquitas. The safe nets will be given to fishermen in Mexico who fish in the northern Gulf of California to expand the Mexican government’s net replacement program. To learn more about what this former CMA volunteer is up to, visit the Muskwa Club’s website.

Post Date: Monday, November 04, 2013

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