previous contest topics


The theme is Ocean Pollution: Challenges & Solutions. You may choose to focus your work on one type of pollution, or the impact of ocean pollution as a whole. Whichever way you choose, we want your submission – visual art, poetry, prose, or film – to make viewers reflect on the impact of ocean pollution, inspire them to consider possible solutions, and challenge them to take action.


The theme is Making Meaning out of Ocean Pollution, and it challenges you to research, explore, interpret, and say something meaningful about the connections between human activities and the health of our oceans through art, poetry, prose, or film.


Submit a work of art, a poem, a written work, or a film about plastic pollution in the ocean. Look for connections between science, creativity, environmental advocacy, and your personal interpretation of theme Our Oceans, Our Plastic. Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to advocate, but give your piece a unique and powerful voice.


We want you to explore the major questions surrounding ocean plastic pollution. Why is there so much plastic in our oceans? Where does it come from? How does it affect ocean animals and ecosystems? Is this a problem worthy of international attention? Are there alternatives to plastic that could help alleviate the ongoing problem of ocean pollution? How does our “throwaway culture” impact the amount of plastic in our oceans? You may work alone or in a group, and submissions can take one of the three following forms: art, essay, or advocacy (film).


Question 1

The North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered large whales. It is estimated that only 500 North Atlantic Right Whale (aka the Urban Whale) remain. Examine the plight of the Right Whale and discuss what you think the future holds for this species. Finally, do you think it is important to save any one species? Why?

Question 2

Overfishing has historically played a decisive role in the depletion of cod and other groundfish in the Gulf of Maine. Scientists are now also examining the role of forage fish, like herring and alewives, in promoting and maintaining healthy groundfish stocks. How have forage fish impacted groundfish stocks over the years? What efforts are being made to restore forage fish in the Gulf of Maine and what are the trade-offs with these projects?


Question 1

Steven Kress, founder of the Puffin Project, is a pioneer in the field of seabird restoration. Describe what steps and techniques he employed to create the successful return of puffins to Eastern Egg Rock. In your analysis pick one other seabird restoration project from around the world where some of Dr. Kress’s strategies were implemented. Describe the similarities to the Puffin Project.

Question 2

While other fisheries in the Gulf of Maine have either collapsed or been greatly diminished, lobsters have thrived in the region. Colin Woodard in his book The Lobster Coast calls the increased catch the “great lobster mystery.” What are the explanations for the high landings? Elaborate on what you consider are the most important fishing methods that lobstermen/lobsterwomen and regulators have employed along the coast to keep the lobster fishery thriving.

Question 3

Ground fishing has changed dramatically in the Gulf of Maine. Many of the premier fisheries like Cod and Haddock have seen a substantial and dramatic decline; overfishing is thought to be the contributing factor in these decreases. Ted Ames, a fisherman and fisheries researcher has suggested, “we need to fish smarter.” Describe and analyze a few significant examples of how people or communities in the Gulf of Maine have changed their fishing practices to protect and rebuild these fisheries.