After a long deliberation process, we’re ready to announce the finalists for our 2012 Ocean Heroes Award. We received over 400 fantastic nominees from all over the country (and a few international ones), but we think these five juniors and six adults are the best of the best.
You’ll have a chance to get to know our finalists better over the next two weeks, and you can cast your vote for your favorite finalists. Voting is open from today until Wednesday, July 11.
Meet the finalists:
Sara Brenes, 16
Coconut Creek, FL
Sara, 16, helps raise awareness for shark protection by promoting Ban the Fin programs within her community, where she educates and advocates for a ban on products made from sharks. She also raises money for shark conservation by selling baked goods and candy and spends time going door-to-door in her community to collect signatures for the protection of sharks.
A group of 7th and 8th grade students from the Adams School in Maine, the Calvineers study the plight of the endangered North Atlantic right whale and educate the public. Guided by science mentors from the Right Whale Consortium, each student studies a specific right whale issue and contributes to a final group presentation. They have presented from Quebec to Tampa and reached thousands with their message.
Sam Harris, 7
Los Angeles, CA
At only seven years old, Sam is a shark savior who raises awareness about sharks by giving presentations to students at schools all over Los Angeles. He’s a Junior Ambassador for Shark Savers, Shark Angels, and Sea Shepherd.
James Hemphill, 15
Virginia Beach, VA
James, 15, is president of the student-led conservation group Project Green Teens. He has organized 34 tidal creek and beach cleanups, helping to remove 2,300 pounds of scrap metal from the waterways. He’s currently collecting signatures in support of a plastic bag ban in Virginia Beach.
Teakahla WhiteCloud, 9
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Teakahla, nine, is a founding director of Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (S.T.O.P.) and sea turtle hotline phone secretary. She helps protect hatchlings on their way to the ocean and raises money for sea turtle protection.
Donald Voss, 64
Fort Pierce, FL
An avid scuba diver with over 10,000 logged dives, Donald founded a marine debris company (MCII) to remove discarded materials in Florida waterways. In 11 years he has led more than 400 volunteer scuba divers who have removed 300,000 pounds of plastic, nets, fishing line, and trash. His work has contributed to the release of tens of thousands of aquatic animals.
Richard Steiner, 59
Rick, a professor at the University of Alaska for 30 years (he retired in 2010), has advocated for science-based marine conservation in in offshore oil, marine debris, sustainable fisheries, marine mammals, and more. He was a leader in conservation efforts after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and has often been the first international scientist on-site for oil disasters in Pakistan, Lebanon, China, and the Niger Delta. He has helped found several marine conservation organizations including PWS Science.
Hardy Jones, 68
St. Augustine, FL
Hardy, an ocean filmmaker and activist, helped first document the slaughter or dolphins at Iki Island, Japan (made famous in the movie, “The Cove”). He has produced numerous ocean conservation films, some appearing on the PBS series Nature. His organization, Blue Voice, provides research and advocacy for marine mammal conservation.
Michele Hunter, 55
Laguna Nigel, CA
Michele has dedicated 20 years to rescuing and rehabilitating marine mammals in Orange County, CA. She has helped return hundreds of marine mammals back to the ocean. As the director of Animal Care/Operations at Pacific Marine Mammal Center she has helped educated the organization’s nearly 20,000 visitors each year.
Kristofor Lofgren, 29
Kristofor created Bamboo Sushi, advertised as the world’s first sustainable sushi restaurant, to provide consumers with the freshest and best fish possible, while simultaneously helping to restore and replenish the oceans. A portion of the restaurant’s proceeds are donated to The Nature Conservancy and Surfrider Foundation.
Dave Rauschkolb, 50
Rosemary Beach, FL
Dave founded Hands Across the Sand to unite organizations and individuals against the expansion of oil drilling in our oceans. In early 2010, he united 10,000 Floridians to join hands on the beaches, creating human lines in the sand to symbolize their opposition to drilling. After the Gulf Oil Spill, the movement expanded to 1000 events in all 50 states and 43 countries around the world.