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And the 2012 Ocean Heroes Are…

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James Hemphill and Captain Don Voss, our 2012 Ocean Heroes

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.


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World Oceans Day at the National Aquarium

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The divers offer Calypso an afternoon snack. ©National Aquarium/Kate Hendrickson

World Oceans Day was this past Friday, and as we mentioned in our last post, Oceana headed up to the National Aquarium in Baltimore to take part in their special celebration of the seas.

Divers enter the aquariums exhibits every day to feed the animals and clean the tanks, but on Friday there was a very special dive. National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli joined Oceana’s very first Ocean Hero, John Halas, for excursions into the Atlantic coral reef and Wings on the Water exhibits.

The Atlantic coral reef exhibit was John Halas’ first aquarium dive, but far from his first experience with that ecosystem. He earned the Ocean Hero award in 2009 for his more than 30 years of working to protect coral reef systems in Florida. He retired earlier this year, but has been busy traveling to places like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to help install environmentally friendly buouy systems.

In Wings on the Water, John Halas got to meet Calypso, the friendly three-flippered sea turtle that lives in the Aquarium. You can check out video from both dives and interviews with John Racanelli and John Halas over at the Baltimore Sun.

Do you know someone who does great things for the oceans like John? Nominations for our 2012 Ocean Heroes Award are open now and we’re searching for people of all ages and backgrounds who are working hard to protect the world’s oceans. Don’t forget to get your nominations in by June 20th!

Many thanks to the National Aquarium for hosting us and doing such great work to protect the world’s oceans.


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