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Oceana Belize is pleased to announce that nominations are now open for the 2022 Oceana Ocean Hero Award. This award recognizes and celebrates individuals who go above and beyond to ensure the protection of our oceans including:

� Teaching and education
� On-ground conservation, restoration and rehabilitation work
� Project work
� Private or individual research

DEADLINE: July 15th, 2022
SUBMIT YOURS TODAY! Click/Visit: forms.gle/khAHZfGpCxff5vAEA

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In case you missed the recent interview by CTV3 News with Oceana Corozal Senior Field Representative - Ryan Rivera, we're sharing that segment where he covers the opening of nominations for our 2022 Ocean Hero Awards!

The award recognizes and celebrates individuals who go above and beyond to ensure the protection of our oceans and is open to individuals throughout Belize with interests in the ocean including:

� Teaching and education
� On-ground conservation, restoration and rehabilitation work
� Project work
� Private or individual research

Nominations of individuals 13 years or older are accepted.

DEADLINE: July 15th, 2022
SUBMIT YOURS TODAY at: http://forms.gle/khAHZfGpCxff5vAEA

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There's still a few days left to submit your nomination(s), for Oceana Belize's 2022 Ocean Hero Award! Simply fill out the form at: bit.ly/OceanHero2022

DEADLINE: July 15, 2022

Past award recipients include: Lionel "Chocolate" Heredia, Dr. Melanie McField, former Fisheries Minister Rene Montero, Lisa Carne, Jamal Galves, Miguel Alamilla, Captain Romauldo Badillo Sr., Janet Gibson, Wil Maheia, Luz Hunter, Madison Edwards, Michael Heusner, Captain Earl David Jr, Guadalupe Lampella, Dale Fairweather, Lowell "Japs" Godfrey, Neville Smith, Kevin Andrewin and Chef Jennie Staines.

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Oceana's Virtual 2022 Ocean Hero Awards

Be a part of Oceana's 2022 Virtual Ocean Hero Awards!

Join us on Thursday, September 29th at 7:30PM via Facebook Live, as we celebrate the incredible individuals who exemplify what it means to be an Ocean Hero.

Though events continue to look different this year, we are happy for the opportunity to connect with all our sensational supporters virtually.

See you there!

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Who will be our 2022 Ocean Hero Award winners?

Join us for our live, virtual event on September 29th at 7:30 pm (CST), as we celebrate the incredible individuals who exemplify what it means to be an Oceana Ocean Hero!

Visit https://fb.me/e/1SNU0MEgd, and select the "Going" tab to register, and the "Invite" tab to encourage others to attend.

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ONLY TWO MORE DAYS to our 2022 Virtual Ocean Hero Awards!

Join us this Thursday, September 29th at 7:30 PM via FB live! Visit fb.me/e/1SNU0MEgd, to register and be notified when the event goes live!

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Congratulations Leandra Cho Ricketts and MarAlliance's Dr. Rachel Graham, the 2022 Oceana Belize's Ocean Heroes!



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Oceana Announces Belize's 2022 Ocean Hero Award Winners

Dr. Rachel Graham and Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts celebrated as Champions of the Sea

During its 12th annual award ceremony held on Thursday, September 29th, 2022, Oceana recognized two extraordinary Belizeans as its 2022 Ocean Heroes. They are marine conservationist, Dr. Rachel Graham and marine ecologist, Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts.

During the virtual presentation of this year's awards, Oceana's Vice President Janelle Chanona, shared, "The Belizeans we've been honored to recognize as Ocean Heroes are testament to the fact that when the odds are against us, that is when our resilience rises. That is when we are our strongest. That is when the hope we dare to grasp with both hands drives us forward. The 2022 Ocean Heroes we introduce to you now are front liners behind the scenes. They are the researchers crunching the numbers to tell the story, our story. As the videos showcase, their work is providing invaluable information, data that drives informed decision making�data that will make it so that we don't just survive but that we thrive!"

Dr. Rachel Graham has been fascinated with the sea from an early age. Her journey in research started with her passion for marginalized animals including rays, sea turtles, and sharks. That passion took Rachel across the globe: her research in environment and development has been conducted in Latin America, Africa, and Micronesia. For twenty-five years, Rachel has worked with fishers and partners in Belize to identify threats, research needs, and conservation opportunities for threatened marine wildlife and their critical habitats. In 2014, Rachel founded the international NGO MarAlliance, to promote impactful and inclusive grassroots science and conservation of marine wildlife. Rachel's commitment to marine conservation can be felt throughout the country, with more Belizeans being inspired to be actively involved in protecting ocean wildlife and coastal biodiversity.

Graham shared, "I think the biggest lesson for all of us is that conservation is a marathon. It's not a sprint. And it takes many years to achieve these successes. And it's taken 25 years of my life to get to some of the successes, and the knowledge, and the scientific discoveries that I've made. It gives me great pleasure to see huge changes also in the public in Belize, away from being scared of sharks - now being scared for sharks. Wanting to see more of this marine, wildlife species in our oceans. So critical to our ecosystems. So critical to our tourism industry. And of course, the resilience of our fisheries and our food security. When we're faced with over 90% decline in big fish in our oceans, we need to fight for what we have left, and we need to re-wild our seas. I hope you will join us for this fight because it's a big one, but it's one worth fighting for."

Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts' bond to the Caribbean Sea was immediate: the minute she locked eyes with the Belize Barrier Reef for the first time, she made a lifelong connection. Growing up in Belmopan, discussions about the reef were quite common in her household, which piqued her interest to study and learn about coral reef ecology and ecosystems management. Over the past two decades, Leandra has applied her expertise in marine sciences, to advance marine conservation and scientific research throughout Belize to advance academic interest and advance policies and regulations. One of her key career achievements was back in January 2010, where she co-founded the University of Belize's Environmental Research Institute, dedicated to building scientific capacity for the sustainable use and conservation of Belize's natural resources. Leandra's dedication to scientific research and marine resource management throughout the years, has paved the way for new generations of Belizean marine conservationists, which helps to ensure the continued dependence, preservation, and restoration of our precious Belize Barrier Reef.

"I remember the first time I saw a video about coral reefs, I imagined myself being there, working in the water, and it wasn't until I hit University that I actually got to see a coral reef so, it's late in my life that I got into it. But from I jumped in the water and started snorkeling, I knew that that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was inspired - I think, to get into this field by the Belize Barrier Reef itself. What I always heard growing up was about the reef and really for me, that's what I wanted to work on to help manage, to help protect. So, I guess over time, I've always been trying to work towards conserving, protecting, and managing the Belize Barrier Reef," shared Cho-Ricketts.

The Oceana Ocean Hero Awards has honored more than twenty Belizeans for their exceptional accomplishments in ocean conservation, advocacy, and education. Past award recipients include Lionel "Chocolate" Heredia, Dr. Melanie McField, former Fisheries Minister Rene Montero, Lisa Carne, Jamal Galves, Miguel Alamilla, Captain Romauldo "Romi" Badillo Sr., Janet Gibson, Wil Maheia, Luz Hunter, Madison Edwards, Michael Heusner, Captain Earl David Jr, Guadalupe Lampella, Dale Fairweather, Neville Smith, the late Lowell 'Japs' Godfrey, Kevin Andrewin and Chef Jennie Staines.

The stained-glass awards were designed and made by local artist, Leisa Carr-Caceres of Leisa Beliza.

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Meet the 2022 Ocean Heroes

The 2022 Ocean Heroes Award ceremony was held virtually on Thursday night. And, in its tradition of honoring those who have been serving as champions in marine conservation, advocacy and education, OCEANA Belize welcomes two other heroes to its list of protectors.� Those Ocean Hero awardees are doctors Rachel Graham and Leandra Cho-Ricketts. News Five's Duane Moody reports.

Duane Moody, Reporting

It's been over a decade since OCEANA Belize has been identifying and shining a light on individuals who have been going above and beyond to assist with the protection of our marine environment in some way or the other.


Alyssa Carnegie, Communications Director, OCEANA Belize

"We will honor women and men who are showing us every day that the change and progress in ocean conservation, advocacy and education is within our reach. The awards recognise men and women from the fields of policy, science, education, entrepreneurship and civil society whose initiatives have left a positive and lasting impact on the marine environment."

Communications Director Alyssa Carnegie says that every sector and age group can provide the leadership and vision needed to bring about transformative change. Like former awardees such as Jamal Galvez, Guadalupe Lampella, Michael Heusner, Wil Maheia and Madison Edwards, the 2022 Ocean Heroes have helped with the resiliency of the environment.

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

"While Belize might be small, there are giants walking among us. Men and women who are standing up and speaking out so that the integrity of our natural resources guarantees the quality of our lives. The Belizeans we've been honoured to recognise as ocean heroes are testament to the fact that when the odds are against us, that’s when our resilience rises, that is when we are our strongest, that is when the hope we dare to grasp with both hands drives us forward."

This year's heroes are described as frontliners behind the scenes, as they provide invaluable information and data for the survival of Belize's waters. 2022 Ocean Hero Doctor Rachel Graham has worked with fishers and partners in several countries to identify threats, research needs and conservation opportunities for threatened marine wildlife. Data on whale shark and shark conservation in Belize came from data collected from Doctor Graham.

Dr. Rachel Graham, Ocean Hero 2022

"If you had a straight line that would not be my life or my journey. Mine started with a passion for marginalised animals when I was three or four years old. I love sharks all the way back then and bats and snakes and I've worked with all of them. And it took a few amazing encounters, especially with sharks to get me on the track that I am today."

Amanda Acosta, Belize Audubon Society

"Her work is across the globe. She doesn't only work in Belize; she works across the globe working towards shark and mega fauna conservation."

Jamal Andrewin, MarAlliance

"Much of the work that we know of Doctor Graham achieving over the years has been predominantly on behalf of Belize and its marine ecosystem and again the people that depend on it, specifically Belizeans."

Doctor Leandra Cho-Ricketts was also tapped as a 2022 Ocean Hero. She has, for almost two decades, been working to advance marine conservation science, management and strategic planning nationally.

Vincent Palacio, President, University of Belize

"Dr. Ricketts has given much of her life to the marine resources. She has studied it at the highest level to a PhD Marine Biology and she has worked in various capacities - not only at the national university, the University of Belize, but in other aspects in the country looking at the marine resources as well."

Elma Kay, University of Belize

"Over the last fifteen years, we worked together both as faculty members at the University of Belize and then co-creators and founders of the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute. And I feel really fortunate because unlike most people in leadership positions, I never felt alone because she was my real partner. We were able to celebrate wins together, we were able to co-create, we were able to find solutions to challenges together."

Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts, Ocean Hero 2022

"I was always interested in the sea especially coral reefs. I remember the first time I saw a video about coral reefs, I imagined myself being there, working in the water. And it wasn't until I hit university that I actually got to see a coral reef. It's late in my life, but from I jumped in the water and started to snorkel, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."

Congratulations to the 2022 Ocean Heroes.�


Channel 5


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Marine Conservationist Dr. Rachel Graham - 2022 Oceana Ocean Hero

Dr. Rachel Graham has been fascinated with the sea from an early age. Her journey in research started with her passion for marginalized animals including rays, sea turtles, and sharks. That passion took Rachel across the globe: her research in environment and development has been conducted in Latin America, Africa, and Micronesia. For twenty-five years, Rachel has worked with fishers and partners in Belize to identify threats, research needs, and conservation opportunities for threatened marine wildlife and their critical habitats.

In 2014, Rachel founded the international NGO MarAlliance, to promote impactful and inclusive grassroots science and conservation of marine wildlife. Rachel's commitment to marine conservation can be felt throughout the country, with more Belizeans being inspired to be actively involved in protecting ocean wildlife and coastal biodiversity.



Marine Ecologist Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts - 2022 Oceana Ocean Hero

Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts' bond to the Caribbean Sea was immediate: the minute she locked eyes with the Belize Barrier Reef for the first time, she made a lifelong connection. Growing up in Belmopan, discussions about the reef were quite common in her household, which piqued her interest to study and learn about coral reef ecology and ecosystems management. Over the past two decades, Leandra has applied her expertise in marine sciences, to advance marine conservation and scientific research throughout Belize to advance academic interest and advance policies and regulations.

One of her key career achievements was back in January 2010, where she co-founded the University of Belize's Environmental Research Institute, dedicated to building scientific capacity for the sustainable use and conservation of Belize's natural resources. Leandra's dedication to scientific research and marine resource management throughout the years, has paved the way for new generations of Belizean marine conservationists, which helps to ensure the continued dependence, preservation, and restoration of our precious Belize Barrier Reef.


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Oceana - Ocean Hero 2022
Andrew Usher - Communications Specialist, Oceana Belize
Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts - 2022 Oceana Hero & Executive Director of the Belize Fund for a Sustainable Future.


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