You’ve been waiting with bated breath to find out who this year’s Ocean Heroes are, and the time has finally come to announce our winners!
We received over 400 fantastic nominations this year, and narrowed it down to six adult finalists and five junior finalists. Thousands of your votes determined the winners, and we’re excited to announce that our adult Ocean Hero is Captain Don Voss and our Junior Ocean Hero is James Hemphill.
Captain Don Voss, from Fort Pierce, Florida, is the owner of the Marine Cleanup Initiative Inc., a debris collection organization that cleans up Florida’s waterways. Over the last 11 years, the company has grown from six volunteers to over 400, who have collectively removed over 300,000 pounds of marine debris. Don started SCUBA diving as a form of therapy after he was wounded in Vietnam, and his love for the ocean motivated him to help clean up the waterways that he loved to dive in.
Don was thrilled to hear that he had won, and is excited for the future of his work.
“I’m 64 now and keep thinking I’ll go back to recreational diving, but every time I go back in the water I find myself picking up debris. People need to understand that this is an ecosystem and that every one thing affects the next thing… What I’ve learned from my grandchildren, if you want an adult to stop doing something, you tell the kids. I’m hoping is that I can get more kids involved with diving, I can get less debris in the water and the water quality improves.”
And if there’s any kid who’s involved with getting debris out of the water, it’s our Junior Ocean Hero, James Hemphill. At 15 years old, James has already been working in ocean conservation for several years. He’s the president of Project Green Teens, a student-run environmental group that promotes conservation in Virginia Beach. They have removed 2,300 pounds of trash from Virginia waterways, and are currently working on a plastic bag ban in Virginia Beach.
James wants kids his age to know that getting involved in conservation is easy, and you can make a big difference by making some changes in your lifestyle.
“Start out with the little creeks that run into the ocean and start small where you can physically see the results. Get a group of friends that are interested and experiment. There’s no such thing as failure… it’s just a matter of how much effort you’re willing to put into it.”
Congratulations to Don and James, and all of our amazing finalists!
Thanks to our corporate sponsors at Nautica and Revo Sunglasses for helping make the Ocean Heroes Awards possible. Our winners will receive a prize package that includes a $500 gift card to Nautica and a pair of Revo sunglasses, made with a 100% recycled frame and polarized lenses, perfect for spending days out on the water.
Happy World Oceans Day!
The ocean does a lot for us — it generates much of the oxygen we breathe, provides us with nutritious food to eat and regulates our climate. But if we want to hold onto these valuable resources, we have to take care of the ocean the way it takes care of us.
Today marks the 20th annual World Oceans Day, a chance for us to protect our most valuable resource. We’ve put together five ways for you to celebrate World Oceans Day (even if you’re nowhere near an ocean)
1. Go to the Beach What better way to celebrate World Oceans Day than to go straight to the source? If you’re lucky enough to live near the water, get a group together and head down to the shore. Pack a picnic (but no single-use plastic bags or bottles, please!) and spend the day learning about the ocean firsthand.
2. Visit an Aquarium If you can’t get out to the beach, try the next best thing. Aquariums let you see unique marine life that you wouldn’t encounter anywhere else. They also do a lot of great research and conservation so that we can protect our marine resources. Many aquariums and zoos are hosting special events for World Oceans Day, see if there are special events at one near you.
3. Clean Up Help keep the marine environment clean by participating in a river, bay, or ocean cleanup today — you might be surprised by what you find! You can find a cleanup event near you on the World Oceans Day website.
4. Adopt a Sea Creature Oceana works hard to protect all kinds of marine life, from sharks to penguins to sea turtles, and everything in between. You can support our efforts by adopting an animal.
5. Nominate an Ocean Hero Our fourth annual Ocean Heroes contest just started, and we’re looking for the most dedicated ocean activists we can find. If you know someone who’s doing great things for the ocean, tell us about them!
If you want to celebrate World Oceans Day with Oceana, we’ll be at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland today. Our 2009 Ocean Hero John Halas will dive in two of their exhibits with National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli. They’re also hosting special events all weekend, including scavenger hunts and book signings with Debbie Dadey, author of the Mermaid Tales book series.
We hope you have a wonderful World Oceans Day, and remember to look out for the oceans every day of the year!
From today's Washington Post:
"Everything we've ever known is different now," said Chris Garner, a charter-fishing captain who has gone to work in the cleanup. "Anything I ever built, I mean it's gone . . . the business, my client base, the Web site; I mean, it might not as well have been there."
From yesterday's CNN.com:
"Until the weather subsides, all we can do is have everything ready to attack and remove this oil once we have weather that's more conducive," said Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, who delivered a briefing for the Coast Guard on Wednesday.
"We've been held hostage for the last two days due to the prevailing weather," he said.
"When seas get over 3 feet high, the skimmers become ineffective. They wind up gathering water and not oil," he said.
The gulf oil spill is proving to be not just an ecological disaster, but an economic one, too.
On Sunday the federal government closed commercial and recreational fishing from Louisiana to parts of the Florida Panhandle, and oil continues to gush unabated from the Deepwater Horizon rig.
The fishing ban extends between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida's Pensacola Bay.
That’s a significant blow to the economy of the region. The Gulf Coast is home to the second largest seafood industry in the country after Alaska.
The annual commercial seafood harvest in the gulf adds up to $661 million, and recreational fishing contributes $757 million and nearly 8,000 jobs, according to the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. The group estimates that $1.6 billion in annual economic activity is tied to the wetlands directly exposed to the spill.
So now fishermen are doing the only thing they can -- gritting their teeth and helping to clean up the oil that is putting their livelihoods at risk.