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Nov 16, 2011

OCEANA Belize turns 2

Audrey Matura Shepherd

Today Oceana reached a milestone; it is celebrating its second anniversary of officially opening its offices in Belize. It has a number of accomplishments under its belt, the NGO got government to agree to ban trawling in Belize’s territorial waters. The organization which is a member of the Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, has been able to collect seventeen thousand signatures to push for a referendum on offshore drilling. Oceana’s Audrey Matura Shepherd told News Five that Oceana’s position in Belize is critical to providing accurate and topical information on marine environmental issues:

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Vice President, OCEANA BELIZE

“It has been a really great two years for us. It has been two great years because we have been able to accomplish a lot. We were able to become an NGO that people know about. We have been able to work with government even when we disagree and we don’t see eye to eye on issues. We remained open because we realize that that’s part of leadership. Leaders should always be willing to dialogue but at the same time remain forceful on issues because we know that when things need to be done the right way, you cannot quiver and you cannot withdraw. Some of the accomplishments I can think about apart from being recognized as an advocacy NGO, we’ve been able to secure a complete ban on trawling. We’ve been able to have very productive meetings with government at different points. We will be giving away those trawlers soon to deserving entities. We’ve been able to partner with other NGOs and work with them. We’ve been able to bring a lot of attention to the issue of offshore oil and OCEANA was very instrumental in making sure that people know about what’s going on with the contracts. We’ve done a lot of work. We’ve worked with these other NGOs through the Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage. So it’s an ongoing work. Oh and one of the things we have also been able to do was successfully secure signatures for the referendum and that is all possible not singularly but because we were able to work with other entities. And it’s wonderful because sometimes you don’t always agree with everybody but to be able to keep on going and working things out. I think that was one of our greatest achievements. And of course I would say we really appreciate all the support we get from the general public because I think if there is a crowning achievement it would be that the level of education and awareness we’ve brought to many marine environmental issues.”

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