Catching up with Ocean Bridge Alumni: Stephanie Foucault
Plenty has changed in the past year for Stephanie Foucault.
For one, the Ocean Bridge alum has moved to Vancouver with her partner, Amanda. That trek included, oh, just a casual cross-country drive with their golden retriever puppy, Beau, tagging along. As seems to have become tradition for Ocean Bridge alumni with new pets (see Kareina and Darla), Stephanie manages an Instagram page for her pooch.
A major reason for the big move West? Stephanie is now in grad school at UBC studying oceans and fisheries, where she also serves as a teaching assistant. She’s joined another youth service program, the Climate Action Catalysts, who design local climate action initiatives in communities.
But for all those big changes, Stephanie’s desire to make a difference in the world and for our oceans has continued to shine bright. In fact, it’s only gotten stronger.
A new path
Stephanie’s research at UBC is focusing on fisheries economics and how best to inform the United Nations’ high seas fishing treaties. Stephanie chuckles as she notes international fishing policy was never something she expected she’d delve into, even just a year ago.
“After going on the 2018 Ocean Bridge expedition to Haida Gwaii, I kind of realized that biology isn’t the only thing that’s going to fix our problems,” explains Stephanie. “I started getting more interested in the socio-economic aspects of these problems, including Indigenous cultures.
"We have this preconceived idea that the economy and the environment are opposing forces, when in reality it can be profitable to be sustainable. We suspect that closing commercial fishing in the high seas could eliminate slavery at sea, boost national equity and provide climate resilience, all while being profitable and sustainable."
Stephanie also had the opportunity to reconnect with her Ocean Bridge roots in early November when the Vancouver Aquarium hosted an appreciation night for Canada Service Corps partners and their youth leaders.
She was able to catch up with fellow alumni Alex Ritz and Jay Matsushiba, and 2019 Ocean Bridgers Spencer Chaisson, Frankie Marquez and Nima Mostaghimi.
‘A better sense of responsibility’
Another highlight came this fall when Stephanie was selected to travel to Oslo, Norway to join the Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit, which was part of the wider Our Ocean 2019 summit.
Gathered there were youth from 45 other countries, each passionate in their own ways about the ocean. Stephanie explains how the first day consisted of the youth getting to know each other through workshops on design thinking, entrepreneurial ideation and issue-solving.
Participants were then split up into smaller groups, with each given a subject to focus on. The teams developed projects to pitch on Day 2 in front of a “Shark Tank” style panel of judges. Stephanie’s group developed the concept for an app that would make it simple to verify the quality and veracity of eco-labelled seafood products.
“Instead of just sitting there talking about problems, they brought 100 of us from all over the world to really solve the problems,” explains Stephanie.
“We came up with a lot of really great ideas. And although it was more of a workshop on how to design projects, there’s potential to actually make these projects happen and potential funding to implement them.”
In addition to those workshops, the youth attended the full-scaled summit which featured more influential people from around the world, including John Kerry, former U.S. Secretary of State and the founder of Our Ocean; Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway; and Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
Stephanie was particularly inspired by the talk of Debbie Remengesau, the First Lady of Palau and the Special Envoy for the Oceans of the UN, who spoke about that country’s pledge to enhance protection of the environment in spite of the waters that continue to rise around it.
She even had the chance to meet her ocean idol, Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer in residence who inspired her to pursue her Master's Thesis topic after watching his Ted Talk.
The 2018 Ocean Bridger says it’s the kind of opportunity she hopes her fellow alum and other youth will consider taking part in down the line.
“It honestly really reminded me of Ocean Bridge, the whole time I was there. Last year at this time, we were in Vancouver doing similar work, working together, co-creating projects,” recalls Stephanie. “When I left, I felt really empowered. I met a lot really influential people who are doing really applied work and changing our oceans’ futures right now and that was really motivating. I left with a better sense of responsibility.
“Yes, I am trying to shape policy through my research, but on the side I realize that it might be nice to actually go and become an entrepreneur of some sort, or design a project that can actually scale up and solve ocean problems now."
To learn more about opportunities with Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA), Stephanie encourages you to contact her at [email protected]