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11-Year-Old Sports Fan's Quest to Save Sharks

At age 7, Sean Lesniak knew he could accomplish anything on the baseball diamond if he just believed in himself. But the Boston sports fan (Bruins, Patriots, and Red Sox, of course!) quickly realized he could apply the same lesson to his other passions and make a difference off the field, as well. 

Now 11 years old, Sean is an accomplished shark activist who will appear on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week this Sunday. 

A couple years ago, Sean learned about the cruel practice of shark finning happening in his home state. Shark finning is where a shark’s fins are removed and their bodies thrown back into the ocean. Sean immediately wrote a handwritten letter to State Representative David Nangle asking for his help in ending the cruel practice.

In 2013, Rep. Nangle filed a bill on Sean’s behalf, hoping to increase the fines and penalties related to shark finning. To help the cause, Sean passed out stuffed sharks and spoke before the state Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee.

Last June, the bill passed. 

Since his experience with the shark-finning bill, Sean has gotten more involved with shark and marine causes. And that earned him a spot on Discovery Channel's Shark Trek.

On the show, Sean helps Dr. Greg Skomal, a marine biologist, tag sharks in Cape Cod and follow them down to Florida. Sean said that by tagging and tracking the sharks, Dr. Skomal and other marine biologists can see the areas where sharks are mating and having babies. Then, they can work to protect those areas and help protect sharks from extinction. 

“The coolest part of Dr. Skomal’s research is that he stands on the end of a boat while he does a lot of it,” Sean says. “I did it, too, but I wasn’t scared because I knew that as long as I was on the boat, they probably couldn’t get to me.” 

Despite his success in the Massachusetts legislature, Sean’s efforts are really just beginning.

He hopes to work closely with Dr. Skomal again one day, and plans to write a letter to President Barack Obama requesting shark finning be made illegal throughout the US.

Sean hopes his story inspires other kids to get involved in making their world a better place.

“Never give up on something [you want to do],” he says. “Because if you feel like you can do it, you can accomplish it.” 

A lot of people — especially kids — will hit the water this summer. So Sean has some tips on shark safety and how to ensure you can help protect sharks during your time on the beach:

1. It’s best not to go in the water near seals. Sharks often mistake people for seals, but they don’t mean to attack people.

2. It’s helpful if people keep beaches as clean as possible. If sharks eat something that they aren’t supposed to, they could become sick.

3. Sharks help keep the ecosystem healthy and balanced. If they die, then a lot of other animals will die, too.

Photo: Discovery Channel

sean lesniak shark week