LMC hosts Florida’s largest ocean conservation awards event, National Geographic photographer wows guests with global conservation journey


2016 Go Blue winners (from left): Brooke Welch, Dr. Derek Burkholder, Jennifer Nolan (accepted on behalf of Louie Psihoyos), Scott Harris, Eric Call. Photo: Tracey Benson Photography

More than 500 conservation-minded individuals gathered on Friday, Oct. 28 at PGA National Resort & Spa for Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s announcement of its 2016 Go Blue Awards winners: Louie Psihoyos, Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation, Brooke Welch, Scott Harris and Dr. Derek Burkholder. 

As Florida’s largest ocean conservation awards event, the luncheon brought together ocean heroes from around the world to meet and mingle, congratulate the winners and hear from special guest and keynote speaker, Paul Nicklen. With over 2.7 million digital followers, Mr. Nicklen is a globally acclaimed photographer and marine biologist who has documented the plight and beauty of the planet’s polar regions and world’s oceans for more than two decades – including the Florida manatees in Crystal River, Florida.

At the luncheon, Nicklen shared his global conservation journey with the crowd. Growing up among the Inuit on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada gave him a true love for the vast northern landscape, he shared with the crowd as they listened intently.

As a National Geographic photographer for over 20 years, Nicklen emphasized the critical importance of visual storytelling as a catalyst for inspiring environmental change, while stunning the room with beautiful photos from his global expeditions.

“If we lose ice,” Nicklen said, choking up while presenting an image of a polar bear, “We stand to lose an entire [ocean] ecosystem.”

At the luncheon, Go Blue Chair and Loggerhead Board Member Lynne Wells echoed the same sentiments.

“Why Go Blue?” she prompted the crowd. “‘No water, no life; no blue, no green.’ Dr. Sylvia Earle was the inspiration for us to create the Go Blue Awards. She’s known around the world as the preeminent ocean conservationist of our time, and she is a pioneer and an inspiration to me. If you’re not familiar with her, you really should be. She is a past Go Blue speaker and judge, and was the 2015 Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Like Sylvia Earle, all of our finalists are ocean heroes for their incredible work. Why Go Blue? Because, ‘With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea, no matter where on earth you live.’”

The luncheon raised nearly $60,000 for LMC’s continued mission of ocean and sea turtle conservation.

Louie Psihoyos, Executive Director of the Oceanic Preservation Society, received the Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as a photographer and film director for Academy Award-winning and Emmy-nominated documentaries The Cove and Racing Extinction.

Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation received the Blue Business of the Year Award for their multi-faceted approach to promoting and protecting the county’s environmental spaces.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as the Go Blue Business of the Year, particularly when you consider how many deserving business organizations were nominated,” said Eric Call, director of PBC Parks & Recreation. “The Parks and Recreation Department places great emphasis on coastal and environmental conservation and being recognized as the best by such a distinguished panel of judges really validates the work we do.”

Brooke Welch, Sarasota Ocean Preservers, received the Blue Hatchling Youth Award for her work as a high school intern and volunteer at Mote Marine Laboratory and Director of Sarasota Ocean Preservers.

Scott Harris, President of Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, received the Blue Ambassador of the Year Award for his service at the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, whose mission is to enhance the Palm Beach County marine environment by funding and building artificial reefs.

Dr. Derek Burkholder, Research Associate at Nova Southeastern University, received the Blue Friend of the Year Award for his work at Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save our Seas Shark Center at Nova Southeastern University.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Go Blue Awards is the state’s premier ocean conservation awards event. Winners were determined by an esteemed panel of judges: Gary Adkison – U.S. Shark Foundation, director; Fabien Cousteau – aquanaut, oceanographic explorer, conservationist and documentary filmmaker; Jim Harvey – Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, co-chairman; Greg Marshall – National Geographic Society, inventor and scientist; Sally Murray – daughter of LMC Founder Eleanor Fletcher; Susan Murray – Oceana Deputy Vice President U.S. Pacific, granddaughter of LMC Founder Eleanor Fletcher; Joel Sartore – photographer, speaker, author, teacher and a 20-year contributor to National Geographic magazine; and Jim Toomey – Mission Blue executive director, Creator of Sherman’s Lagoon Comic Strip.

The Eighth Annual Go Blue Awards Luncheon recognized businesses, non-profits and individuals who have promoted, implemented or contributed to a “Blue” lifestyle of marine conservation. Awards were given to those who are leading the way in raising awareness and have made significant contributions to improve and protect our oceans, beaches and wildlife. WPTV News Channel 5 Meteorologist Glenn Glazer served as the introductory host for the event.

For more information on the event, including finalist and winner bios, please visit www.marinelife.org/goblue.