Vice President, Belize
Belize City, Belize
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, the vice president of Oceana's new office in Belize, is a well-known public figure in the tiny Caribbean nation. She began her career as a journalist, culminating in a weekly network television talk show. She later became an attorney-at-law and served as a Senator from 1998 to 2000 as a member of the opposition party. She speaks English, Spanish, and the native Belizean Creole.
"I recently went snorkeling near Caye Caulker, at the famous sting ray alley. There are normally nurse sharks, and there were none, and there were fewer sting rays than usual. The nearby reef just wasn't full of the fish life it used to have. I also saw damaged corals and coral bleaching. The last time I went was two years ago -- in two years alone I could see the damage. When I used to go swimming and diving at many different places throughout the country, especially at my native Corozal, by the bay, I could see clearly without goggles. Now we can't do that, it's muddy, mucky and stagnant. I believe most Belizeans have their heads in the sand, they don't realize what's happening."
"As a child I swam every day, rain or sunshine. As an adult, if I get to go once a month, I'm lucky. My first recollection of swimming was when I was three years old, and my Dad just threw me in the water. You just had to survive - that's what was done to all of us; it was normal. Being next to water makes me happy and keeps me grounded, and I want our ocean to be a healthy source of life and economic prosperity for my Belizean people."