Oceana declares Miguel Alamilla an Ocean Hero
Friday, October 2nd, 2015
Oceana held its fourth annual Ocean Hero Awards on Saturday, September 26th at the Iguana Reef Resort in Caye Caulker. The occasion was a celebration in honor of the contributions made by Belizean men and women in the area of conservation. This year’s event recognized two Belizeans for their selfless commitment to Belize’s marine environment. The late Captain Romauldo “Romi” Badillo from Caye Caulker and San Pedro’s very own Biologist Miguel Alamilla were officially declared the 2015 Ocean Heroes.
Alamilla has been managing one of Belize’s most popular marine protected areas, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, for the past 18 years. He also leads a monitoring program in order to protect the highly vulnerable marine turtles that live and nest on the shores of Ambergris Caye. According to Oceana in Belize’s Vice President Janelle Chanona, the idea of having this event is to give proper recognition to those unknown heroes that nobody hears about. “Ocean Heroes was created because too often in the conservation community, people work so very hard because they love it, and not because they are getting paid to do it. They bring that passion to their work, without getting the proper recognition. So this event is about making sure that we thank them when it’s due and as an advocacy organization, we tap into what our partners and alliances are doing in order to identify the people who deserve this award. We also put out a call to the partners we work with and ask them to nominate someone, since the process is by nomination,” said Chanona.
Before the awards were presented, Chanona talked a bit about the awardees and their characteristics as heroes. “One of the nominees tonight is Miguel Alamilla, who has been working tirelessly in making sure that Hol Chan is the best protected marine area. He has managed the turtle protection program, he is in the classrooms, in the streets talking about awareness, educating and being the stable presence at Hol Chan, and the reason why it has become such an important marine protected area in the country established in 1987,” stated Chanona. She emphasized that you can’t pay someone to have the passion and go that extra mile; that is a dedication that comes from within the individual.
A video was shown featuring Alamilla, and the conservation activities he endeavors day by day. Upon receiving the award, he expressed his appreciation to everyone that supports him and encouraged everyone to get involved in the conservation of our marine resources, especially in helping to conserve the existence of the turtles. He indicated that there are major challenges for turtle nesting areas, as these spots are valuable real estate areas for tourism development. Nevertheless, he will continue working with his team in an effort to continue the progress of conserving the reef and its natural wealth for the future generations to come. “The work that we do at Hol Chan is not dependent on one person, it’s a collaboration with our team, the tour guides, and the stakeholders. The award is for the community and everyone who work hard on the conservation projects on the island and contribute to what Hol Chan is today. I am really happy, I have never received an award for my work before and it’s nice to know that people and organizations out there recognize what we are doing in San Pedro,” said Alamilla.
It was an emotional moment when the late “Romi” Badillo was honored. Family members and invited guests were in tears as they watched a video depicting Badillo’s life. He is described as someone who impacted many Belizeans with his friendship, leadership and seamanship. “He gave so much of himself to Belize through the Fisheries Department, tourism industry; supporting scientific research and as well in channel marking and navigation. He knew everything about the reef, he could identify…he was a role model and a real man of the sea…Romi was someone who could make a rope versus most people going to a store and buy one. That was one of the many skills he had. Mentally, he knew weather patterns; if you wanted to catch a certain type of fish; he knew where to take you. He really knew so much about the sea, so with his passing we have had a great lost,” remarked Chanona. Badillo’s family was presented with the award followed by a symbolic show of sky lanterns in tribute to Romi’s life.
At the end of the ceremony, attendees were invited to mingle around and enjoy the service of a full bar and exquisite bites prepared by Chef Sean Kuylen. A DJ kept the crowd entertained with different music selections until midnight, during which time, the attendees were treated to a fire performance that included dancing, juggling baton twirling and poi spinning.
If you know about a Belizean who you think should be honored as an Ocean Hero, you can nominate them by sharing their information with Oceana Belize, by calling 822-2792 or visiting their website www.belize.oceana.org for more information.
Past Belizean Ocean Heroes include Marine Biologist Dr. Melanie McField, Lisa Carne, manatee protectors Lionel “Chocolate” Heredia and Jamal Galves.
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