San Pedro’s Philip ‘Billy’ Leslie and celebrity Chef Sean Kuylen are 2023 Oceana’s Ocean Heroes

Tuesday, November 14th, 2023

On the 13th annual Ocean Hero Award, Oceana Belize recognized another islander with prestigious recognition. Philip ‘Billy’ Leslie was presented with the Ocean Hero Award on Friday, November 10th alongside another Belizean champion of the sea, Chef Sean Kuylen.
Leslie, an activist, and tour guide is known in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye for his energetic advocacy for the conservation of the environment, particularly marine ecosystems supporting thousands of livelihoods in Belize. Leslie is also the President of the San Pedro Tour Guide Association, and those who know him say he is outspoken when it comes to protecting marine resources such as the barrier reef. A good portion of the Mesoamerican Reef stretches in front of San Pedro’s east coast, supporting the vibrant tourism and fishing industry on the island. Leslie shared that he comes from a family dedicated to commercial fishing, thus, his love for the sea and its protection. He takes every opportunity to highlight the importance of sustainable development in Ambergris Caye. “If we continue destroying our environment for tourism or real estate projects, if we continue cutting down the mangroves, we will lose all the wealth and opportunities provided by the barrier reef,” said Leslie. Mangroves play a big role in the health of the reef and fisheries.” Leslie reminds everyone that he is not against development, however, it must be balanced for the well-being of the seas around Ambergris Caye and Belize.

Philip ‘Billy’ Leslie

Leslie is also admired for his passion for sports and as a founder member of the annual summer scuba diving camp for children called Kids in Action. The island sea advocate also volunteers with the Rickilee Response and Rescue, a team that responds to road and water accidents/emergencies on the island. Upon accepting the award, Leslie challenged all Belizeans who depend on marine ecosystems to stand up and voice their concerns. Leslie welcomed the recognition on behalf of all those taking the time to listen when he shared information about Belize and the importance of marine resources.
Belize’s celebrity chef Sean Kuylen was recognized for his passion and commitment to Belize’s marine resources, never shying away from voicing his opinion through his different platforms, raising awareness about the environment. Kuylen shares his motivation to encourage others to do the right thing when it comes to sourcing sustainable seafood. The well-known Belizean chef opposes illegal fishing and said that speaking up against it is the difference everyone can make, together as a united force.
Oceana’s Vice President in Belize Janelle Chanona congratulated the winners and said Oceans Hero Awards is one of her favorite events of the year. “It allows the team and I to recognize the unsound work of a fellow Belizean,” she said. “Their work is making a difference in all our lives,” Chanona added that the award is a way to thank these role models for their unwavering commitment and for making a difference in the lives of Belizeans and future generations.

Over the years, Oceana has awarded more than 20 Belizeans for their exceptional accomplishments in ocean conservation, advocacy, and education. Many of the awardees hail from Ambergris Caye. They include Miguel Alamilla, Madison Edwards, Chef Jennie Staines, and Dr. Rachel Graham. Others from across the country include Lionel ‘Chocolate’ Heredia, Dr. Melanie McField, former Fisheries Minister Rene Montero, Lisa Carne, Jamal Galves, Captain Romauldo ‘Romi’ Badillo Sr., Janet Gibson, Wil Maheia, Luz Hunter, Michael Heusner, Captain Earl David Jr., Guadalupe Lampella, Dale Fairweather, Neville Smith, the late Lowell ‘Japs’ Godfrey, Kevin Andrewin, and Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts.


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