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The winners of the Ocean Awards 2019

The winners of the Ocean Awards 2019

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Local Hero Award: Zoona Naseem

Co-founder and owner of Moodhu Bulhaa Dive Centre on Villingili Island, Maldives

This award recognises the individual or group that has had the most positive impact on the marine environment within their local community this year. The winner is typically a recognised leader on marine conservation issues within their community or organisation.

When Zoona Naseem became a PADI course director in 2018, no Maldivian woman had ever qualified to train diving instructors as well as beginners. As president of the Dive Association of the Maldives and co-founder of the Moodhu Bulhaa Dive Centre, she was also the first woman in the Maldives to qualify as a PADI instructor.

She became a tireless campaigner both for ocean conservation and for Maldivian women to learn to dive, to better understand what is at stake and to pass on that knowledge to their children.

Over her career, Naseem, who has logged more than 12,000 dives, has enabled in excess of 11,000 people to dive, 400 of them Maldivian women. She talks with enthusiasm of “the dozens of sharks, huge schools of eagle rays and abundant fish life” it is possible to see in these waters.

She was also one of the key person who piloted a government scheme named Farukoe ( “reef child”) that will ensure every Maldivian child gets to experience a coral reef if only by going snorkelling. This should, in turn, encourage a generation to grow up aware of the importance to the Maldives of protecting and maintaining a thriving marine ecosystem.

Not surprisingly she has become a marine ambassador and an advocate for the environment, which she says is “a privilege”. And last year she received the Maldivian president’s National Award of Recognition in the area of Diving (Recreational Scuba Diving).

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