Home Community and Society Biologist Lisa Carne and Manatee Expert Jamal Galvez get Ocean Hero Award

Biologist Lisa Carne and Manatee Expert Jamal Galvez get Ocean Hero Award

Biologist Lisa Carne and Manatee Expert Jamal Galvez get Ocean Hero Award

Two outstanding conservationists received the Ocean Hero Award from Oceana in Belize during a special ceremony on Saturday September 27th. The two recipients of the prestigious award are Biologist and Coral Researcher Lisa Carne, and self-made Manatee Expert Jamal Galvez. The two were awarded for their heroic work with two endangered wildlife species, the Acropora Corals and the West Indies Manatee. According to Oceana in Belize, being an Ocean Hero can mean that the recipient takes action to help to protect the marine environment for people and creatures of today and for future generations, and as such, the award recognizes their efforts.
Ocean Hero Galvez CarneOcean Hero Lisa Carne was a young biologist when she witnessed the devastating impact of Hurricane Iris in 2001 in Southern Belize and was deeply troubled by the vulnerability of Belize’s marine environment to climate change through rising sea temperatures and stronger storm surges. In 2006, using the Laughing Bird Caye National Park as a natural laboratory, Carne established a coral “nursery” in an attempt to restore the critically endangered Acropora corals which were once in abundance along Belize’s Barrier Reef. With support from the communities of Independence and Placencia in the Stann Creek District, her “Fragments of Hope” project continues to see success and has more than 5,000 out-plants in more than 18 sub-sites throughout southern Belize.10405622_767819389940995_5618495939813897932_n
“Laughing Bird Caye is a high traffic area; it’s very close to Placencia. It’s a no-take zone which means there is no fishing allowed and it supports a real crucial ecosystem within the reef so that there is a good balance between the fish, the corals and the invertebrates,” shared Carne at the award ceremony. She explained that the key to the project’s success is community support. “I have a lot of help from the tour guides and fishermen, because they see that it is working; that these corals provide habitat for lobster and other organisms.”
Like Carne, Ocean Hero Jamal Galvez has been helping in saving yet another endangered wild marine creature; the West Indies Manatee. Belize is known to have one of the healthiest populations of these gentle herbivores, but those numbers have been declining due to constant threats like frequent boat collisions, destructive gear like nets and even poverty, since the animals are hunted as a food source. On average, manatees can live as long as 50 to 60 years in the wild, largely because they have no natural predators.10635955_767781236611477_2577861851406893040_n
Since the age of 11, the self-proclaimed “manatee protector” has had a profound love for the mammals. Now older, Galvez continues to make waves and is a recognized expert of these slow-moving mammals. His affection for the gentle herbivores has propelled the need to protect manatees into national consciousness. “Manatees aren’t just cute. They are in trouble and they need our help. I’ve dedicated my life to conserving these creatures,” says Galvez. “Belize has one of the healthiest populations of West Indian manatees in the world. I just want to inspire other Belizeans so that the interests of manatees will always be safeguarded.”
Guest speaker at the event was Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts, the Administrative and Marine Science Director of the University of Belize’s Environmental Research Institute. “As an educator, I can discuss, teach, test and encourage but it is a real privilege to be able to reward people who are making a difference on the ground. Our award winners have demonstrated a vision and determination in embracing marine conservation. In honoring our Ocean Heroes, I hope we can all take some inspiration from their example and do more to contribute to the good of all mankind.”Ocean Hero Award
Present at the event was Oceana’s Vice President in Belize, Janelle Chanona, who explained that the ecosystem is still at risk from various challenges and there is an urgent call to action to protect the planet. “Sensitive habitats along our coast and on our islands are still at risk from unjustifiable development projects. And on top of it all, the marine environment we all depend on for our food, our jobs and our very cultural identity is at risk from the global crisis of our generation, climate change. Our challenges are many but our collective passion is deep. Lisa and Jamal exemplify the type of heroism we all need to strive for. And like them, Oceana is working fervently to help consumers become informed citizens on environmental issues so that you can help to determine the quality of your future; your family’s future; Belize’s future.”
Oceana in Belize introduced the Ocean Hero award back in 2009 as a platform to recognize and celebrate exceptional accomplishments in ocean conservation, advocacy and education taking place globally. Past Belizean recipients include Lionel “Chocolate” Heredia who passed away a few years ago and Marine Biologist Dr. Melanie McField.