Co-chairs of the 12th Annual Go Blue Awards, Lynne and Pete Wells. (Photo Courtesy of Loggerhead Marinelife Center)

National Geographic Magazine photographer and keynote speaker for the Twelfth Annual Go Blue Awards, Joel Sartore, cheered on award recipients and instilled hope for the world’s most endangered species during Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s (LMC) online event! On Friday, October 23, viewers from around the world tuned in to the first virtual awards ceremony held by LMC, which received a record-number of nominations spanning across seven countries, including the United States, Argentina, Canada, Thailand, Mozambique and more. The celebrated event was hosted by co-chairs and “Go Blue” founders, Lynne and Pete Wells.

“It was a joy hosting this landmark event that brought together ocean conservationists from around the world,” said LMC board chairman, Lynne Wells. “Whether held virtually or in-person, it’s clear that supporters are still eager to learn about wildlife, how it pertains to us, and how we have the opportunity to sustain our most important natural resources.”

Tiffany & Co. graciously provided the awards for the virtual ceremony.

The recipients of the six categories include:

The Eleanor Fletcher Award, named for the founder of Loggerhead Marinelife Center, recognizes an individual who has exemplified a lifelong, extraordinary commitment to marine conservation through their work or volunteer activities.

  • Lad Akins (Key Largo, FL): Lad’s initial spark to learn fish identification and survey fish during dives would later launch REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation). In 2018, Lad joined the Frost Science team where he oversees environmental restoration efforts, that include both mangrove and coral restoration, or marine exotic species removal program and its treasured taxa program that enables Frost to focus on specific animal species.

The Blue Ambassador of the Year Award recognizes a person who has made significant contributions to marine conservation through volunteer-related activities.

  • Jillian Morris (Bimini, Bahamas): Jillian is a marine biologist, underwater photographer, PADI AmbassaDiver, and the founder of Shark4kids, a nonprofit organization that is working to create the next generation of shark and ocean advocates. Since Sharks4kids was created it has reached 84 countries and 49 U.S. states. Jillian provides educational opportunities for students of all ages to turn fear into facts and build respect for sharks and their important role in the ocean. 

The Blue Friend of the Year Award recognizes a person who has made significant contributions to marine conservation through work-related activities.

  • Daniela Fernandez (San Francisco, CA): At the age of 19, Daniela founded Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) as a college-room idea at Georgetown University. With phenomenal speed, SOA has created the world’s largest network of young ocean leaders by establishing a presence in over 185 countries and has successfully launched the world’s first Ocean Solutions Accelerator to develop technological solutions that can address the greatest threats facing our planet.

The Blue Hatchling Youth Award recognizes students up to and including 12th grade who have made significant contributions to marine conservation through volunteer-related activities.

  • Miles Fetherston-Resch (St. Petersburg, FL): Since starting Kids Saving Oceans in 2018, Miles has given nearly 30 talks to the local community, political, and school groups, organized 25+ beach and estuary cleans ups for kids of all ages, and talked to local, regional, and national politicians about ways they can do better for our oceans, beaches, and sea life. Miles’ goal is to raise $1,000,000 by the time he is 18 for ocean conservation groups.

The Blue Business of the Year Award 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.

  • One World Zero Waste (Tequesta, FL): One World Zero Waste has been a trailblazer in conservation efforts in South Florida and in particular to the north county area. The store shows how striving for a zero-waste lifestyle is not only attainable but simple through their locally made and sourced products. Products like unpaper towels, reusable utensils/ straws and cloth bags all eliminate the need for single-use products that too often end up in our waterways injuring and/or killing marine life.

The Blue Nonprofit of the Year Award recognizes a nonprofit that has made outstanding contributions toward promoting conservation or restoration of marine life or ecosystems through their practices, products, or technology.

  • American Shark Conservancy (Palm Beach Gardens, FL): The American Shark Conservancy (ASC) is a local nonprofit organization based in Palm Beach County, Florida, that actively addresses threats to vulnerable shark species through inclusive and innovative research and outreach efforts. This organization takes real action to ensure a better future for our oceans and is building a community of well-informed stewards.

Insight from Joel Sartore

Joel Sartore, founder of the Photo Ark, which is a multiyear effort to document every species living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, inspire action through education, and help save wildlife by supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts. (Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark. natgeophotoark.org)

Upon announcing the award recipients, Sartore walked viewers through his harrowing craft, which has landed him in the same space of a charging bison to a grizzly going after dangling salmon. With every click of the camera, he has documented more than 10,000 endangered species in The Photo Ark.

“This is what extinction looks like and I don’t want people to forget it,” said Sartore. “We are primates ourselves and communicate with our eyes. So, if we get animals to make eye contact with the camera, it gives them an equal voice.”

With a fresh perspective, Sartore encouraged online viewers to strap on positivity for the planet thanks to the efforts of wildlife and environmental organizations. And, lauded LMC’s 27,500-square-foot campus expansion that will double its sea turtle patient capacity, amplify ocean conservation research and steer STEM education.

“I want people to care, to fall in love and to take action,” said Sartore. “Loggerhead Marinelife Center is the perfect place to do this and I can’t think of a better organization to support.”

In this virtual landscape, attendees were able to participate in an engaging open forum with Sartore’s feedback. Participants were also able to personally congratulate finalists and award recipients for their noteworthy achievements in the world of ocean conservation.

This year’s Go Blue sponsors included, Northern Trust, AMG, Florida Power & Light, Pete and Lynne Wells, Burke Young Photography, Seven Kings Holdings, Inc., Bart & Julie Livolsi, Monique Brechter and Steven Heinemann, AW Property, Inc., Caler, Donten, Levine, Cohen, Porter & Veil, P.A., Leanna Landsmann, Chip Block, Florida Crystals, Allan and Crista Ryan and RBC.

Inspired by this year’s Go Blue Awards? Make your mark in ocean conservation by donating to LMC’s capital expansion campaign.