The Beacon

Announcing the 2011 Ocean Heroes

Peter Wallerstein (left) releases a sea lion back into the wild.

Happy World Oceans Day, everyone!

Whether you’re on the coast today or not, we hope you pause to recognize the beauty and bounty of the oceans. Starting today, we're asking all of you to take a pledge to protect the world's oceans -- but more on that later.

And now to the juicy stuff: this year’s Ocean Heroes!

More than 500 ocean activists were nominated, 12 were selected as finalists, and more than 12,000 of you voted. The results? This year’s adult ocean hero is Peter Wallerstein and the junior ocean hero is Sophi Bromenshenkel!

Peter Wallerstein is the program director at Marine Animal Rescue, a project of Friends of Animals, where he has spent the last 25 years rescuing marine mammal in Los Angeles County. He has personally rescued 3,000 marine mammals throughout his career, and also established a team of professional responders that humanely rescues hundreds of animals a year, including whales, dolphins, sea lions and seabirds.

Fittingly, Peter was out helping a stranded California sea lion when I called to give him the good news.

“I hope that by winning this award people across the country will see the impact that Marine Animal Rescue is having in Los Angeles and will be inspired to improve the quality of similar rescues in their own coastal communities,” Peter said.

 This year’s junior hero is 8-year-old  Sophi Bromenshenkel of Richfield, Minnesota, who has raised more than $3,500 for shark conservation by selling lemonade and hot chocolate, shark cookies and wristbands, and through email campaigns and local fliers. She has partnered with the University of Miami’s R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, where her funds pay for satellite tags on sharks.Sophi Bromenshenkel on a shark expedition with Univ. of Miami

“I’m so excited about being the junior ocean hero,” she said. “I have worked really hard to save sharks and now I’m going to work even harder so that I can save more.”

Congratulations to Peter and Sophi, and to all of our fantastic finalists!

We also owe a special thanks to the sponsors of this year’s Ocean Heroes contest. The heroes will each receive a $500 gift card to Nautica.com; a pair of Revo sunglasses that feature a 100% recycled frame material; and a copy of "For Cod & Country", the new guide to sustainable seafood from acclaimed Washington D.C. chef and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver.

Inspired by Sophi and Peter? Get involved in ocean conservation this summer by pledging to be an ocean hero with us. You can choose between three options: recycle, participate in a beach clean-up, or eat sustainable seafood.

What else are you doing to celebrate World Oceans Day? Let us know in the comments!

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