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The Ocean A-List: Meet the heroes and heroines of ocean conservation

The Ocean A-List: Meet the heroes and heroines of ocean conservation

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Cristina Mittermeier

Co-founder and president of SeaLegacy

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Cristina-Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier/Paul Nicklen

With the ever-increasing threats facing the world's oceans, protection and conservation is a task for the many not the few and where the heroes and heroines of ocean conservation lead, the rest of us would do well to follow. By Olivia Falcon.

Cristina Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen are both photographers and marine biologists who harness the power of the lens to show the real story about what’s going on underneath the ocean. In 2015 this talented duo launched SeaLegacy, a collective of highly acclaimed photographers and film-makers who share their images and films with scientists, conservationists, policymakers and selected media partners to spread their ocean-saving mission. This inspirational group of storytellers is on the front line and sees first hand the damage that is inflicted on marine life. “When there is an emergency, like an oil spill or a hurricane, we are able to deploy a team of photographers to the site immediately so that they can document the crisis and we can share the images with partners and the media,” says Mittermeier.

With a social media reach of more than 70 million and National Geographic as a partner, this group of snappers is punching well above its weight and proving that pictures speak louder than words.

sealegacy.org

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2
/18

Leonardo DiCaprio

Actor and founder of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

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Leonardo-DiCaprio

Getty Images

Donating his megawatt celebrity and more than $30 million to date to help advance UN climate negotiations and protect coral reefs and endangered marine life (most notably sharks and rays), Leonardo DiCaprio’s commitment to and passion for protecting our planet has galvanised everyone from politicians to millennials. As a keynote speaker at the Our Ocean Conference in Washington DC last year, DiCaprio reported on his first-hand experience of the horrors of coral bleaching. “I saw this with my own eyes while filming my new documentary Before the Flood. Marine scientist Jeremy Jackson led me underwater in a submersible to observe the reefs off the coast of the Bahamas. What I saw took my breath away – not a fish in sight, colourless, ghost-like coral, a graveyard.”

DiCaprio is also focusing on using innovative solutions. Tackling the problem of overfishing, his foundation has partnered with Google, SkyTruth and Oceana to launch Global Fishing Watch, a website that invites the public to track fishing vessels, with data collected by satellites, thus making fishing practices transparent, and politicians and fisheries accountable to us all. “I am consumed by this,” DiCaprio has said of his work to protect the planet. “There isn’t a couple of hours a day where I’m not thinking about it.”

globalfishingwatch.org

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3
/18

Adrian Grenier

Actor and founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation

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adrian-grenier

Lukas Waterman; Adam Slama

"Sadly, I became connected to the ocean late in life,” says Grenier, who set up the Lonely Whale Foundation in 2015 to develop a community of ocean advocates through education and interactive social media campaigns. “I grew up in New York City but never thought of myself as living near the ocean, even though I was. When I finally learnt to scuba dive, I quickly realised how much I had been missing.” Grenier’s new passion led him to co-produce 52: the Search for the Loneliest Whale, a documentary that chronicles the quest to find the mysterious and solitary 52 hertz whale, a mammal scientists believe calls out at a frequency that no other whale can hear.

Grenier also navigated choppy waters when he was challenged last summer by Richard Branson (pictured above) to swim the Strait of Messina to raise awareness for World Oceans Day. “My training for that race took me to waterways all over the world, from the dead zone off Mississippi, to the second largest shipping port in Singapore. I’ve seen and swum through different levels of environmental degradation of our waterways.” Grenier is mindful of his own personal choices at home, too. “My house has an open door policy to my friends and family, with one exception: no plastic bags allowed! I have also committed to saying no to plastic straws and sharing their detrimental effects on our ocean with the restaurant industry.”

Education is also at the core of the Lonely Whale’s work. “We are particularly proud of our kindergarten to fifth grade marine science-based education initiative. We’ve partnered with the Academy for Global Citizenship on the southwest side of Chicago to build a unique education initiative that is rooted in empathy [co-developed with practising scientists and marine researchers, children learn about seven sea creatures and the polluting challenges they face]," he says. “The biggest threat to our oceans right now is non-action. Our oceans are resilient but only if we take collective steps towards protecting and rebuilding them. We need to protect 30 per cent of our oceans by 2030. Today, we’ve protected just three per cent. We have a long way to go but I’m ready for the challenge and the opportunity to engage a new community of environmental leaders.”

lonelywhale.org

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