Student Shark Advocate Works with Legislators

This post was written by FLVS student and Model United Nations club member James A. La Fayette Jr.

Sierra Boodhoo is a 16-year-old student on a mission to make a positive impact on society. After experiencing racial profiling and bullying at her previous school, she switched to FLVS Flex in 7th grade where her interest in marine biology began. Her interest was sparked when she watched an episode of Shark Week with shark nets. She kept the flame going and researched sharks despite discouragement from others due to age, gender, and other societal bias.

She was told, “You are just an 11-year-old girl. Quit sharks. Switch to something girly like ballet.”

However, instances such as these didn’t deter Sierra from pursuing her ambitions. She exhibited perseverance and did not crumble under pressure from critics. Today, Sierra is working with multiple groups and individuals to make a change. She is the inventor of a netless and pipeless shark deterrent barrier that will prevent the commonly feared animals and other ocean life from being harmed. Working with University of South Florida’s (USF) department of Biomedical Engineering, she will be overseeing the construction of her shark barrier.

An Advocate

Not only is Sierra working with scientific minds to make a difference, but politicians as well.

Participation in the FLVS Model United Nations Club has enhanced her understanding of current international political issues, including but not limited to, climate change and awareness of trade in intellectual and industrial properties. She previously discussed propositions for a bill to end shark finning in Florida with Representative Amy Mercado (an acquaintance met through the Model United Nations) and her team.

Shark Allies, in acknowledgement of her previous efforts, has created a merger with Sierra, resulting in the opportunity for her speak in front of the Florida Legislature (the House of Representatives and Senate) at public hearings located in Tallahassee regarding proposed bills SB354 and HB99.

Sierra continues to be an advocate for a future generation of voters finding their voices and expressing their passions in ways they can be heard. By speaking at the hearing and writing letters to the Legislature, she will represent the voices of the youth.

Youth in Support for Shark Fin Legislation

To the Esteemed Members of the Legislature,

Thank you for taking into consideration bills SB354 and HB99 that will stop the trade of shark fins and ray parts. With these measures, you have an opportunity to safeguard and preserve a vital part of the ocean ecosystem that will be important for our future. If the current disruptions to the underwater ecosystem continue to take place, consequently, our generation will be left with massive problems to resolve. Restoring ocean health and shark population numbers is a task our generation will be left to struggle with, attempting to reverse decades of damage. Acknowledging that fishing practices over the last 30 years have been devastating shark and ray numbers, actions taken now will aid us in tackling these challenges in the near future. Our home, our State, must stop participating in an industry that is wiping out massive amounts of underwater species. We urge you to keep focus on what will be important in the long run and hold steady against any excuses that may present themselves to weaken these bills. Though some of us may not be able to vote yet, we are constituents in the years to come. Help us by protecting these important animals now.

PLEASE END THE TRADE OF SHARK FINS IN FLORIDA ONCE AND FOR ALL. 

We thank the bill sponsors and leadership in the Senate and the House for their support.”

~Excerpt of the Published Youth Declaration, Sierra Boodhoo, 2019.

The Strength of Unity

As we have seen before with the trade of ivory, not only do practices like this cause physical damage to the animals, but they also cause damage to worldwide populations and ecosystems.

Evidence of sharks date back 420 million years, but within the last 30 years, shark populations have reached a point of rapid decline. Age is not a determining factor as to whether someone is capable of completing a task. Sierra believes that people gain knowledge from experience, not years lived, and shares, “Being old doesn’t necessarily make you wiser. The amount of experiences you have in your life contributes to the amount of lessons you have learned. The more lessons you have learned, the wiser you become, no matter how little you take away from each experience.”

In order to prevent devastating practices from causing cataclysmic repercussions, people of all generations and demographics must unite to take a stance on issues that affect our planet as a whole. You can help by supporting these bills:

Declaration for Youth (12 & Under and Ages 13-18)

Declaration for Individuals and Adults (Ages 18+)

Learn more about why we must stop trade of shark fins and stingray parts in this article from Shark Allies.

Learn more about the FLVS Model United Nations Club.


FLVS student Sierra Boodhoo is a One Ocean Global ambassador, a Conversation Ocean ambassador, a Fin Alliance ambassador, inventor of a shark deterrent barrier, and Model United Nations delegate.



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