Loggerhead Marinelife Center Names Go Blue Awards Recipients, Hosts World Renowned Cartoonist Jim Toomey at Luncheon

A conservation-minded crowd of more than 300 gathered at PGA National Resort & Spa for Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Fifth Annual Go Blue Awards Luncheon and announcement of the 2013 award recipients. A panel of judges selected four winners in four different categories. Dr. Guy Harvey, Dr. Kirt Rusenko, Marty Baum and Coral Restoration Foundation received the 2013 Go Blue Awards. The luncheon raised $50,000 net and featured Mission Blue Executive Director and world renowned cartoonist Jim Toomey as keynote speaker. WPTV News Channel 5 Meteorologist Glenn Glazer emceed the event.

During his keynote address, Toomey emphasized the importance of ocean conservation by taking guests on a visual journey through the presentation of his clever and creative cartoons. “I care about issues like overfishing and marine debris, and as a member of the ocean conservation community, I lend a lot of time and effort to helping educate people,” said Toomey. While one of his main ways of educating the public about ocean conservation is through the drawing of his cartoons, he also educates by serving as Executive Director of Mission Blue. Mission Blue is a global initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance, a previous Go Blue Awards Luncheon speaker, which was formed in response to Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED Prize Wish. Currently, the Mission Blue community includes over 50 respected ocean conservation groups.

Dr. Guy Harvey received the Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the founder of Loggerhead Marinelife Center, which recognizes an individual who has exemplified a lifelong, extraordinary commitment to marine conservation education through their work or volunteer activities. Guy Harvey is a unique blend of artist, scientist, diver, angler, conservationist and explorer, fiercely devoted to his family and his love of the sea. Though he gave up a budding career as a marine biologist for that of a highly acclaimed artist, Guy has continued his relentless pursuit to unravel the mysteries of the sea, traveling the world to better understand the habits and habitats of the marine wildlife he paints. Along the way, Guy became an ardent conservationist, supporting “catch-and-release” fishing ethics, collaborating with Nova Southeastern University in Dania Beach, FL, to form the Guy Harvey Research Institute, and working with many organizations to help manage and protect fishery resources around the world. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation was founded by Harvey in 2008 to help ensure that future generations will enjoy and benefit from a naturally balanced ocean ecosystem where fish and other marine wildlife flourish.

Dr. Kirt Rusenko received the Blue Ambassador of the Year Award which recognizes a person who has made significant contributions in marine conservation in south Florida through volunteer related activities. Dr. Kirt Rusenko traces his roots in sea turtle conservation back to Loggerhead Marinelife Center, where he volunteered his help with sea turtle nesting surveys, turtle walks and other various tasks. His experiences at LMC led him to leave his industry job behind and start a new career in marine conservation. He first worked with Florida Power and Light Company’s intake canal monitoring team removing turtles from the canal and surveying the beaches of Hutchinson Island.  In 1995, he filled the open position as the marine conservationist for City of Boca Raton, Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex where he has been ever since. Kirt also became involved with managing beachfront lighting and urban glow as a volunteer activity. Hatchling disorientations are now rare in Boca Raton, where they once were common before Kirt came to town with an open mind and a lot of energy.  Kirt volunteers many hours working with regulatory agencies, citizens, and other stake-holders to help them understand how to monitor lighting and how to best correct lighting problems.

 Marty Baum received the Blue Friend of the Year Award which recognizes a person who has made significant contributions in ocean conservation through work-related activities. The mission of the Indian Riverkeeper is to protect and restore the waters of North America’s most diverse estuary, the Indian River Lagoon, its tributaries, fisheries and habitats through advocacy, enforcement and citizen action. Marty Baum has a deep connection with the Indian River. Since taking the position of the Indian Riverkeeper, Marty has not stopped working hard to make sure that he is an advocate for clean and healthy water on Florida’s east coast. Working closely with experts from all over the state, Marty finds problems to the deteriorating health of the river, gets to the bottom of it and creates change. Marty attends every meeting he can, gives interviews and educates others on their questions or issues. He cares very much for the river and is attentive to everyone who approaches him with ideas and thoughts about the protection of it. Recently, Marty has been extremely busy advocating the toxic water issues that Florida is having due to the Okeechobee run-off.

Coral Restoration Foundation received the Blue Business of the Year Award which recognizes a business that has made outstanding contributions toward promoting and encouraging conservation, restoration, or preservation of marine life and/or marine ecosystems through their business practices, products or technology.  The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to creating offshore nurseries and restoration programs for threatened coral species, specifically staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn corals (Acropora palmate). CRF is leading the development of new coral nurseries and restoration techniques. Tens of thousands of corals are grown and maintained in multiple offshore nurseries. Today, CRF has projects in the Florida Keys, Bonaire, and Columbia. CRF recognizes the global challenges that coral reefs face both domestically and globally. Much of CRF’s success has been due to engaging the scuba community in the CRF Dive Program. The program encourages scuba divers of all ages and skill levels to get involved and take an active role in coral restoration through educational lectures along with hands on, underwater work in the nursery. The Coral Restoration Foundation has developed an inexpensive, easily-replicated process for restoring coral reefs with a hope that future generations will have the opportunity to experience the “Rainforests of the Sea.”

For the past thirteen years, Jim Toomey has been creating the daily comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon, which appears in over 150 newspapers in North America. Sherman’s Lagoon is a combination of Toomey’s two lifelong passions: drawing and the sea. He has presented at a variety of venues ranging from the Royal Society in London to a kindergarten class. Toomey has also been featured in many of his client newspapers, as well as Wired magazine and Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

The Go Blue Awards program was created to recognize individuals and businesses that directly or indirectly support Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s mission to promote conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The panel of judges that selected this year’s finalists and winners include Dr. Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer, Aquanaut, and Author, National Geographic; Dr. Gary Adkison, Director, U.S. Shark Foundation; James Harvey, Co-Chairman, Guy Harvey Foundation; Greg Marshall, Biologist, Inventor, and Filmmaker, National Geographic; Sally Murray, daughter of Loggerhead Marinelife Center Founder Eleanor Fletcher; Susan Murray, granddaughter of Loggerhead Marinelife Center Founder Eleanor Fletcher, Senior Director, Oceana Pacific; and Dr. Edie Widder, President/CEO,  Senior Scientist, Ocean Research and Conservation Association.

Sponsors of the Go Blue Awards Luncheon include Pete & Lynne Wells, The Capital Grille, Robert Chlebek, Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, Florida Power and Light Company, Florida Weekly, Gretchen Scott, Jupiter Magazine, Loggerhead Marina, Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Tourist Development Council, PGA National Resort & Spa, Tiffany & Co. and Whole Foods Market. A committee of 24 members of the center’s Blue Friends Society helped put on the luncheon. To learn more about the Blue Friends Society, a fundraising, conservation and social arm of the center, visit marinelife.org/bluefriends.