After receiving nearly 500 nominations and thousands of votes for its final group of nominees, out of eight finalists, this year’s Ocean Hero is John Halas, a marine biologist and manager of the Upper Region of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Halas has been working to protect coral systems in Florida since 1981. After observing coral damage caused by careless anchoring, he took it upon himself to develop an environmentally friendly anchor and mooring buoy system that prevents damage to coral reefs and has worked to implement this anchorage system in 38 countries.
“My work is something I have felt strongly about and it is really a great honor to receive this acknowledgement,” Halas said. Halas will receive a $500 gift certificate from Oceana’s corporate partner Nautica and a special outgoing voicemail greeting recorded by Oceana board member Ted Danson.
Second and third place prizes include an ocean-themed entertainment package and an assortment of Oceana memorabilia. New Jersey-based Bob Schoelkopf finished second for his work rescuing and rehabilitating seals, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine animals.
In 1978, Schoelkopf helped start a program in Brigantine, New Jersey to save stranded sea mammals. The program evolved into the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, which rescues and rehabilitates hundreds of injured marine creatures every year.
Shark expert Andy Dehart earned the third most votes in recognition for his work educating the public about sharks. Dehart is a shark expert who currently works at the National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. and is a Discovery Channel shark advisor. He helps to educate the public on the important role sharks play in the ecosystem and the need to protect them.
You can read short bios for all Ocean Hero finalists can be found at: www.oceana.org/heroes