On Saturday, September 30th, Oceana 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.
Hunter has been exploring the wilds of Belize most of her life. Her youthful awareness of respect for wildlife and the importance of the sustainable use for the marine environment led her to a career in the tourism industry. Over the last three decades, Luz has earned the respect of both local and international university professors and industry regulators who rely on her encyclopedic knowledge of the local flora and fauna to educate students as well as fellow Belizeans working towards tour guides licenses. Hunter is also a tireless advocate for turtles and manatees, often dedicating much of her personal time and resources to clean-up initiatives on nesting beaches and fearlessly calling out speeding boats for their role in an increasing number of manatee deaths. Hunter shared the award with her faithful volunteers and said, “I am using my voice to speak for creatures like the turtle and the manatee. My goal is to have people understand how we can affect the environment less, their home less, than to have them adjust to us. That’s what visitors to this country are attracted to, so whatever we do to those creatures, we do to ourselves.”
Despite her young age, Edwards has leveraged her social media following as a platform to advocate for the protection of Belize’s marine environment. Edwards says she is planning to use the recognition to inspire more young people to speak up about what they care about. “One person, no matter how small, can make a big difference.” When she saw seismic ships in Belizean waters, Madison Edwards embarked on a personal crusade to highlight the importance of safeguarding marine ecosystems from the inherent dangers of offshore oil activity. As part of many self-motivated awareness activities, at age ten, Madison became the youngest Belizean to swim the length of the reef during a week-long sailing trip. As a proud San Pedrana, Madison is all too aware of just how dependent Belizeans are on the reef. “Just put your all into what you care about. Last week I saw a video of one of our leaders addressing students at the University of Belize. His stance was obviously for offshore oil, and many of the words he said hurt me. In his speech he said we all need to think for ourselves. But tonight, I am here to ask you to think about my generation and the generations to come. Please consider the planet you leave behind.”
“At a time when our environment is facing its greatest challenges, ocean heroes lift spirits; they connect us on an emotional level and they encourage us to become better versions of ourselves,” shared Oceana’s Vice President Janelle Chanona. “We are proud to recognize the Belizeans who are making differences that benefit everyone.” The Ocean Hero award began as a way for Oceana to recognize and celebrate exceptional accomplishments in ocean conservation, advocacy and education. Past Belizean recipients include Lionel “Chocolate” Heredia, Dr. Melanie McField, Lisa Carne, Jamal Galves, Miguel Alamilla, Captain Romi Badillo, Janet Gibson and Wil Maheia. Please use this link for photos and this link for videos.
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 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in Asia, North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.