You may be surprised to hear that sharks are found in all parts of the Ocean and not just in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and the US. They are everywhere and many sharks are highly migratory, moving in and out of a countries jurisdictional waters. It makes protecting these animals very difficult due to the fact that so many countries with different cultures and different practices have the ability to protect them.
This is where this week’s guest on The Speak Up For Blue Podcast comes in, Angelo Villagomez. Angelo is the manager at the PEW Charitable Trust, a non-profit, charitable organization that advocates for the protection of many species. Angelo’s job is to focus on the protection of sharks in small island communities. And based on his work and his interview, Angelo and his colleagues are very good at what they do. I find the challenge of engaging with multiple small island communities very difficult because I did not grow up on a small island and there is a definite bond among people who do. A friend of mine from Newfoundland, Canada (a small island) always said to me that she will bond with anyone from an island because they face similar problems.
Angelo is from Saipan. A small island in the chain of the American south Pacific territories called the North Mariana Islands. This is where Angelo grew up and faced many of the same challenges others have had on different islands and it is with this bond that Angelo forges strong relationships with various leaders in small island communities around the world to help implement shark protection such as fishing bans and marine protected areas.
I wanted to have Angelo on the podcast ever since I met him in 2013 at an Ocean Science Communication Conference in Miami, Florida. We had been “online friends” for a few years, but meeting in person was awesome as we got along very well. I can see why Angelo is so good at meeting new people. But I digress.
Angelo’s story of how he got to the position he is in is compelling. How did a young man from a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean get to a position where he can help implement the protection of sharks in different countries? Passion and following his dream no matter what. You will have to hear the story from his mouth in the interview down below because its pretty inspiring, especially for people who are searching for marine conservation jobs today.
Angelo and I discuss a number of his projects at PEW and we also discuss how a cut out of a cartoon shark potentially influenced a committee of voters for CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) to sway their vote to protect many different species of sharks in an unprecedented, historic win for sharks!
We also discussed how you can advocate for protection of animals or habitats that are near and dear to your heart. You have to listen to this awesome interview with Angelo!