Oceana, the world’s largest international organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation, is opening an office in Belize. Oceana’s CEO and Board of Directors formally announced that the new office will be headed by Belizean attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd. The office will be Oceana’s first in Central America. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Oceana also has offices in North America, South America and Europe.
“I am elated to be joining Oceana as the vice president of its new office in Belize,” Matura-Shepherd said. “As an established organization with a proven track record on protecting oceans, Oceana is a perfect fit to help protect Belize’s incredible coral reefs and marine creatures.”
Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless and Chief Scientist Dr. Michael Hirshfield visited Belize earlier this year. Sharpless and Oceana’s Board of Directors announced Matura-Shepherd’s selection this past week during a board meeting in Washington, DC.
“Belize is blessed with a wealth of natural marine resources,” said Sharpless. “Oceana, with Ms. Matura-Shepherd’s leadership, is ready to assist in continuing the good work already accomplished by the citizens, the government and other conservation groups toward protecting Belize’s waters.”
Oceana is known worldwide as a goal-oriented organization that works on a limited number of focused campaigns. In recent years, it has worked to protect valuable seafloor habitats and end mercury pollution as well as save sharks, sea turtles and marine mammals. Oceana’s Board of Directors includes actors Ted Danson (“Cheers” and “Damages”) and Sam Waterston (“Law & Order”), former president of Colombia, César Gaviria, and leading marine scientist Dr. Daniel Pauly as well as top businesspeople and philanthropists.
“I’m so proud and happy that Oceana will now be working in Belize,” Danson said. “I’ve long heard of the tremendous beauty and richness of the Belize Barrier Reef. All of us on the board are looking forward to helping Ms. Matura Shepherd and her team in their efforts to protect Belize’s marine resources.”
Matura-Shepherd visited Washington D.C. last week to attend her first Board of Directors meeting, where she announced plans to officially open Oceana’s office in Belize City, Belize, this summer. She is working with Oceana’s executive staff and board members to arrange future fact-finding visits to Belize.
“Oceana’s board affirmed that its Belizean office will be fully Belizean and thus this also brings job opportunities to our shores,” she explained. “We will work hard to get the people of Belize, from grass-roots people to government leaders, involved in the continued work of protecting and preserving our incredibly rich ocean ecosystems, which are so important for Belize’s tourism industry, our fishermen and our cultural heritage.”
Oceana has over 300,000 supporters in 150 countries. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has named Oceana one of only 20 environmental organizations that “deserve your dollars.” Charity Navigator, a leading charity evaluator, recently awarded Oceana its top rating of four stars. The recognition indicates that Oceana “exceeds industry standards and outperform most charities in their cause.” Less than one-quarter of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator have received four stars.