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Oct 2, 2017

OCEANA Rewards 2 Heroes

Over the weekend, OCEANA in Belize formally recognized two Belizeans as the 2017 Ocean Heroes. They are eleven-year-old student Madison Edwards and career tour guide and conservation educator, Luz Hunter. Both have inspired and encouraged others to be conscientious about the marine environment as well as the flora and fauna. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

It was a night of celebration at the Ramada Belize City Princess as two enterprising individuals were honored in the presence of their families and peers by OCEANA Belize for their stellar work in creating awareness on the many challenges facing the environment, particularly the sea. The environmentalists in their own right are described as unsung heroes and 2017’s Ocean Hero Awardees.

 

Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

“Every year since 2009, OCEANA has been awarding incredible citizens of the planet for their contributions that benefit all of us and since 2013, we’ve been honoring Belizeans. And this is always one of my favorite events because getting able to say thank you to these incredible Belizeans who are often working behind the scenes, unsung heroes.”

 

The first to be awarded was Luz Hunter. According to OCEANA, Hunter’s work with tour guides across the country and her extensive knowledge of the local flora and fauna has earned her respect of both local and international university professors and industry regulators. Championing the importance of the sustainable use for the marine environment, her career in the tourism industry has extended to clean-up initiatives with volunteers on nesting beaches and most recently advocating for turtles and manatees. Hunter says that her aim is to have people understand how we can be one with the environment.

 

Luz Hunter

Luz Hunter, 2017 Ocean Hero Awardee

“I’m a naturalist, an ecologist so I spend a lot of time out in the nature and that’s pretty much what I do. Well the work that we’ve been doing….usually every year we go and we do a beach clean up just a little bit north and south of the Manatee River. It is one of the primary nesting area for Hawksbill turtles and this is the nesting time. But unfortunately that beach is covered with garbage, plastics. So we have a team of volunteers, we go clean that up every year for the last four or five years, but this year, I have been very busy with the manatee situation, working along with Jamaal and other people that are interested in the safety of the manatees. We’ve had over thirty manatees that have died this year and many of them from collision. So this year, I have been real busy trying to figure out a solution to the problem.”

 

The other awardee might be small in size, but has a big heart for the environment. Eleven-year-old student at Island Academy, Madison “Pearl” Edwards says that the attempted offshore seismic testing and the potential effects of offshore oil drilling triggered her campaign to reach out to her community and peers to take action.

 

Madison Edwards, 2017 Ocean Hero Awardee

“When I saw the seismic boats, it just triggered a feeling inside of me…I can’t let this happen; we have to do something.”

 

Duane Moody

“What did you do?”

 

Madison Edwards

Madison Edwards

“I started asking my mom, what can we do to get my word out there because I know just going to people and saying we should do this, we should do that and not doing it, it’s not going to work. We actually have to do something. So I started posting on Instagram, posting a lot of the stuff and meeting up with people and trying to do something.”

 

Duane Moody

“We understand that you go diving to clean the water and all of that. talk to us about that.”

 

Madison Edwards

“Well it is a very fun experience and I see so many new species of animals and it is so awesome the other world that we have and we don’t pay attention to sometimes. We think this is our world here on land, but there’s a whole other world down there.”

 

It is no secret that the Caribbean Sea, and by extension the barrier reef, is critical for the tourism and fisheries industries. And Vice President of OCEANA in Belize, Janelle Chanona, says these ocean heroes and others assist in carrying out the mandate of the organization—to protect the sea and its organisms.

 

Janelle Chanona

“It’s really a chance for us to highlight that interconnection and that dependence to make sure that we’re taking care of it so it can take care of us and it can always be there for us. And with the right sustainable practices and behaviors in place, it will always be able to do that for us.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

 

To date, there are now a total of ten unsung ocean heroes. 

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