by Martha Sadler

The top 20 finalists in a young cartoonists’ contest sponsored by the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary won a day trip to Santa Cruz Island with Mad magazine cartoonist Sergio Aragones (pictured) last Sunday, while the top six teenage cartoonists also took home cash prizes. At a ceremony on the deck of the Shearwater in the Santa Barbara harbor, the artists were congratulated by representatives of Congresswoman Lois Capps and state Assemblymember Pedro Nava for creating cartoon strips focusing on ocean-water quality. “We appreciate it,” said sanctuary deputy superintendent Todd Jacobs, “and we hope to make you all famous.” Most of the six top award-winning strips featured talking fish consuming toxins and humans consuming the fish.

The contest was the brainchild of another group of teenagers from the youth media agency Generation Communications, a project of the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation. The Marine Sanctuary hired the agency to kindle Latino youths’ interest in watershed protection. Working for stipends, those teens researched the demographic, planned and publicized the contest, and helped judge it along with Screaming Pixels animator Keith English, international cartoonist Mike Gordon, Aragones, and watershed experts. Consistent with Generation’s marketing plan, the sanctuary will post grand prize-winner Elise Pham’s (pictured) cartoon strip on buses and publish a bilingual graphic novella. The contest attracted 70 contestants, most of them high school students from Santa Barbara. The sanctuary plans to repeat the contest annually.

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