After voting closed and 7,000 votes were cast, Oceana announced today that Jean Beasley of Topsail Island, NC, and Rory & Maeve McCracken of Baton Rouge, LA, were chosen by the public as the adult and junior winners of this year’s Ocean Hero Awards. The winners beat out more than 300 other ocean activists who were nominated in Oceana’s 5th annual contest.
“Oceana is proud to honor the hard work of this year’s Ocean Hero Award winners Jean Beasley and Rory & Maeve McCracken,” said Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless. “Like Oceana, our new ocean heroes work in unique ways to safeguard threatened marine wildlife while advocating for healthy and sustainable oceans. We hope their inspiring stories encourage the next generation of ocean heroes to help protect the world’s oceans.”
Video: Alexandra Cousteau announces Ocean Heroes: http://bit.ly/15b3qoo
Adult Ocean Hero: Jean Beasley, Topsail Island, NC:
In the wake of her daughter Karen’s untimely death at the age of 29, Jean Beasley decided to carry out an important mission: continuing her daughter’s legacy of protecting sea turtles. As a tribute, Jean started the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in 1997. To date, Jean and her volunteers have released over 300 turtles back into the wild. They’ve fought for (and won) stronger regulatory protections in North Carolina and worked to educate the public about the threats that sea turtles face in the wild.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Jean Beasley said about winning the Oceana Ocean Hero Award. “The Ocean Hero Award is such a wonderful thing. It calls attention to the fact that we need to think about the oceans every day.”
“Sea turtles are still so mysterious,” she added. “There is still so much we don’t know. There are still gaps. These ancient creatures have survived the cataclysmic events that reshaped our planet, events that wiped out the dinosaurs. But if they survived all that the planet has challenged them with and they can’t survive what we are doing to our oceans today, well, then we’ve got a problem. It is important to remind people that we cannot ignore what is happening to our oceans. There is still a lot to do.”
Having outgrown their current facility, Beasley and her team are in the final stages of building a new hospital with funds raised solely by her team of volunteers. The $2 million project will open later this summer. The expanded space will allow access for classroom tours and Beasley has plans to install on-site solar panels, a rain barrel project and a vegetable garden to feed the turtles.
Junior Ocean Heroes: Rory (14) & Maeve (10) McCracken, Baton Rouge, LA:
After witnessing the devastating effects of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill firsthand, Rory and Maeve McCracken were inspired to help clean up Louisiana’s beleaguered sea. But as children they had a hard time finding out how to get involved. So, they started kidslovethegulf.org and encouraged other young people to participate. They ended up raising $8,000 through t-shirt sales to support wildlife rescue and rehabilitation efforts by the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program.
The siblings then wrote and published G is for Gulf, a book to educate kids like themselves about the Gulf of Mexico. All profits from the book sales pay for additional copies that are given to elementary school libraries and classrooms. Rory and Maeve have donated the books to schools in Louisiana, Florida and Honduras. They hope to give the book to schools in each state that borders the Gulf and eventually take it nationwide.
“I could barely breathe. I couldn’t move. I was so happy and so shocked at the same time,” said ten-year-old Maeve about the moment she learned of her Ocean Hero Award. “I couldn’t really comprehend it at first,” Rory said. “To me it’s just a huge honor to be listed with everyone else, let alone to win,” he added.
When asked if they have advice for other kids who want to get involved, Maeve said, “I want people to know that kids can make a difference, too. Kids of all ages can do what they believe in.”
“Once you set your mind to do something,” Rory added, “you’re going to be able to do it if you try. If you try long enough and hard enough, you can do anything.”
Oceana’s Ocean Hero Awards is made possible by its partners Nautica, JW Marriott, Outside Television, and Revo Sunglasses. Jean, Rory and Maeve will receive prize packages that include a personalized apparel collection from Nautica, inclusion in an Oceana-produced public service announcement that will run on Outside Television, eyewear from Revo Sunglasses and a two-night hotel stay at the JW Marriott in either Orlando, FL, or San Francisco, CA, complete with a gourmet, sustainable seafood dinner with the hotel’s executive chef.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 550,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.