You‚Äôve been waiting with bated breath to find out who this year‚Äôs 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‚Äôre 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‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm 64 now and keep thinking I‚Äôll 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‚Ä¶ What I‚Äôve learned from my grandchildren, if you want an adult to stop doing something, you tell the kids. I‚Äôm hoping is that I can get more kids involved with diving, I can get less debris in the water and the water quality improves.‚ÄĚ
And if there‚Äôs any kid who‚Äôs involved with getting debris out of the water, it‚Äôs our Junior Ocean Hero, James Hemphill. At 15 years old, James has already been working in ocean conservation for several years. He‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúStart 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‚Äôs no such thing as failure‚Ä¶ it‚Äôs just a matter of how much effort you‚Äôre willing to put into it.‚ÄĚ
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.
Kinsey is best known for her role as the tightly-wound head of accounting on ‚ÄúThe Office,‚ÄĚ and she also appeared in a video for Oceana‚Äôs sea turtle campaign alongside Rachael Harris (‚ÄúThe Hangover.) Kinsey will be joined by sustainable chef and author Barton Seaver and Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell. Their stops will include a briefing on Capitol Hill and a reception at National Aquarium.
Oceana has found mislabeling of nearly one in five fish fillets sampled in Boston-area supermarkets, as well as the mislabeling of more than half of the seafood sampled in the Los Angeles-area. Oceana is calling on the federal government to make combating seafood fraud a priority as well as for traceability of seafood sold in the United States.
Happy World Oceans Day, everyone!
Whether you‚Äôre 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.
This is the first in a series of posts about this year‚Äôs Ocean Hero finalists.
Starting today, I‚Äôll be highlighting each of this year‚Äôs Ocean Hero finalists on the blog, since their stories deserve more space than what fits in the voting boxes at oceana.org/heroes.
First up we have Zach Rome, whose love for the oceans began at age 11, when his grandfather took him scuba diving in the Florida Keys. He was hooked, and spent subsequent summer vacations scuba diving around the world, climbing the scuba certification ladder.
He went on to study marine biology at the University of Miami, where he learned just how important and fragile the oceans are. He decided that after graduation, he would devote himself to passing on that knowledge.
After spending a few years working as a scuba instructor and middle school science teacher, he founded The Schooba Academy, a nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn, NY that teaches students from low-income communities about science through scuba diving.
The following guest blog from journalist and ocean activist David Helvarg is an excerpt from his latest book, ‚ÄúSaved by the Sea - A Love Story with Fish‚ÄĚ
Recently I flew from California to Washington to ride on one of the Coast Guard's big icebreakers heading north. As I looked down at the snowcapped northern California mountain ranges they reminded me of great white-capped ocean waves.
Actually they're not unlike waves in geological terms, bridging up across the landscape, surfing the magma where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates collide and subside beneath them. Mountains are the rippling breakers of the planet, though functioning in a timeframe that make our species seem as transitory as mayflies or molecules. Only evolutionarily hardened marine life such as horseshoe crabs and Nautilus have been around long enough to see mountain ranges rise up and erode away again.
Just in time for World Oceans Day, this month Malibu Magazine released its Blue Issue, which showcases high-profile ocean activists and their participation with various conservation organizations.
Among the activists are actor Pierce Brosnan, supermodel Tatjana Patitz and world-renowned architect Harry Gesner.
Gesner, who was highlighted for his support for Oceana, is known for his visionary style; his Wave House was an inspiration for the Sydney Opera House. He is also a WWII veteran and an avid surfer.
‚ÄúWaiting for the wave, seeing it, paddling for it, taking it, dropping in ‚ÄĒ that‚Äôs my church, that‚Äôs where I go,‚ÄĚ he told Malibu.
It‚Äôs the last day to vote for your favorite finalist to receive this year‚Äôs Ocean Hero award!
All of this year‚Äôs adult and junior finalists are stellar -- if you checked out any of the profiles I wrote on the blog this month I‚Äôm sure you agree. From young shark and sea turtle activists to a sustainable seafood power couple and an ocean trash blogger, all of our finalists deserve plaudits.
We‚Äôll announce the winners on the fast-approaching World Oceans Day, June 8.
This year‚Äôs winners (one adult and one junior) will each receive a $200 gift card and Raiatea binoculars from West Marine, a $500 gift card from Nautica, and a trip to the World Oceans Day with Nautica and GQ party in Los Angeles on June 8.
Happy Earth Day!
Since there‚Äôs so much going on today, here‚Äôs a list of things you can do right now to protect the blue marble we call home. Enjoy!
1. Support a ‚Äėsafe zone‚Äô for Pacific leatherbacks.
Tell the government to expand critical habitat for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles to more than 70,000 square miles off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California. Comments are due tomorrow, April 23, so please voice your support today.
2. Take action with Sigourney on ocean acidification.
You can take action too -- tell your representative to support a Congressional resolution that will support policies to study and address the effects of ocean acidification.
3. Stop expanded offshore drilling.
An oil rig about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana exploded Tuesday, in what could be one of the country‚Äôs deadliest offshore drilling accidents of the past 50 years. Seventeen people were injured in the blast.
Tell your senator today that you won‚Äôt stand for expanded offshore drilling.
4. Bid and text for the oceans.
Today is Christie‚Äôs Green Auction, which benefits Oceana, Conservation International, NRDC and Central Park Conservancy. Check out the online auction items, or for a cheaper option, you can text ‚ÄúGoGreen‚ÄĚ to 20222 to make a $10 donation today.
This is the third in a series of posts about the 2009 Ocean Heroes finalists.
Today we‚Äôre catching up with 19-year-old Emily Goldstein, who was an ocean hero finalist because she convinced thousands of people and dozens of large companies to reduce their energy use, saving 16 million pounds of CO2.
She has also given dozens of talks to large groups about climate change and ocean pollution, and in 2008 she donated over 1,000 hours to make the ocean healthier. Emily is planning an ocean awareness day in Louisville, KY, when she‚Äôll set sail on the Ohio River on a boat of recycled bottles.
Emily is a rock star; I‚Äôm not sure when she sleeps. Here she is:
‚ÄúI'm a freshman at the University of Louisville. I'm getting a dual biology/ecology degree, and then I hope to get my PhD in wildlife conservation. It's my dream to work in the field doing research on how to save marine wildlife.
I have been a busy little environmentalist this year. I have been trying to get someone to fund my ocean awareness day, but I guess the economy has made it hard for everyone to raise money. I haven't given up on it, though, and I will make it happen eventually.
Update 4/28/10: Ocean hero voting is now open!
We are now taking nominations for our second annual Ocean Heroes contest!
If you know someone -- including yourself -- who has made a significant, ongoing contribution to ocean conservation, we want to hear about it.
This year, there are two categories: adult and junior. We'll announce finalists in late April, and then we'll open it up for voting. The winners will receive a gift from contest sponsor Nautica plus a trip to our blue carpet World Oceans Day event in Los Angeles.
Also, to get you inspired, throughout the week I'll be filling you in on what our 2009 Ocean Hero Finalists are up to now -- stay tuned.
Submit your nomination today!