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Oceana recognizes 2 Ocean Heroes

HighlightsOceana recognizes 2 Ocean Heroes

by Khaila Gentle

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Sept. 30, 2022

On Thursday, Oceana Belize recognized Dr. Rachel Graham, a marine conservationist, and Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts, a marine ecologist, as this year’s Ocean Hero Award recipients. Both Dr. Graham and Dr. Cho-Ricketts have dedicated almost half their lives to the cause of conservation and the protection of marine life.

Dr. Rachel Graham has traveled across the globe—from Latin America to Micronesia— to carry out marine research. For the past two decades, she has been working with local fishers and conservationists to protect threatened marine wildlife and their habitats. During Oceana’s virtual awards ceremony, she remarked that she sees conservation as a marathon rather than a sprint.

“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,” she said.

Those changes, said Graham, include a shift in the community towards understanding and being concerned for marine creatures like sharks, rather than being afraid of them.

Dr. Rachel Graham is also the founder of international NGO MarAlliance, which works together with communities to protect marine wildlife and their critical habitats.

Like Dr. Graham, Dr. Leandra Cho-Ricketts has spent the last twenty years utilizing her marine science skills in the name of conservation. She is the co-founder of the University of Belize’s Environmental Research Institute and has dedicated her life to advancing policies and regulations that ensure the protection of marine life.

During her acceptance speech, Dr. Cho-Ricketts said that the Belize Barrier Reef is what inspired her to enter the field of marine ecology.

“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,” she said.

Having received Oceana’s Ocean Hero Award, Dr. Graham and Dr. Cho-Ricketts join twenty other exceptional Belizeans who have been awarded over the years, including Wil Maheia, Chef Jeanie Staines, Lisa Carne, and Jamal Galves.

“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,” said Oceana Vice President Janelle Chanona.

Both of this year’s awardees received a stained glass plaque designed and made by local artist, Leisa Carr-Caceres of Belizean Craft and Colors.

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