The Local Hero Award, one of the categories at this year’s Ocean Awards, is presented to the individual or group that has impacted the most positive change within the marine environment in their local community. Our panel of judges have shortlisted four finalists who have either a) initiated a promising effort for the benefit of the ocean within their community, or b) significantly improved, advanced, or revived an existing effort towards new achievements.
Nusi Mursiti is a young environmentalist from the Wakatobi archipelago of south eastern Indonensia. After graduating university, Mursiti returned to the island where she grew up and joined FORKANI, breaking barriers at a time when women were largely excluded from this type of work. She has been integral in scaling up the efforts of FORKANI since 2007, and has pioneered new ways of communicating with local communities in an effort to help them take ownership of local projects and understand the data being presented to them.
Over the past year Mursiti has been active in implementing a sustainable model of octopus fishing that allows for larger, more profitable catches that command a higher price at market. Mursiti’s model has been met with success, and 35 other communities across Indonesia have now replicated this model and training has been provided to help even more communities adopt this practice. The initiative has inspired the Government of Indonesia to take initial steps to develop an octopus working group in order to recognise the fishery as a stock of national strategic importance. On top of this, Mursiti has been at the forefront of the opening of a new FORKANI site, penned a children’s book and has also facilitated training for communities to monitor their numbers of seaweed and finfish.
Sheena Talma is a Seychellois scientist with a masters in Ichthyology and Fisheries Science. She has co-authored two scientific papers in the last year alone and is currently spearheading a feasibility study with SeyCCAT to determine whether a sustainable seafood labelling system will be effective in raising awareness about endangered and sustainable fish species in the Seychelles. In addition, Talma is working with the Nekton Foundation and Ocean Discover on a new project that aims to make the deep-sea more accessible with the help of a newly developed prototype for an affordable deep-sea camera.
In an effort to combat misinformation surrounding sharks in the Seychelles, Talma has led a project to create a short documentary that tackles the issue from a variety of different perspectives. The film was aired by Greenpeace and several other local and international media organisations. Talma has also advised as part of panels, organised competitions and raised money for a locally-led deep-sea exploration venture.
Pascoal Nhamussua is a Mozambique-based activist who currently manages the ‘Kayak-Powered Sustainable Fishing Programme’ in Jagamo Bay with Love the Oceans (LTO). The initiative provides fishermen with kayaks in an effort to encourage pole-and-line-fishing, providing an alternative to unsustainable fishing methods like gillnetting. The response to the initiative has been positive, with the chief fishermen announcing a new law that will ban netting in the area. Over 3,135 hectares of ocean will be protected from unsustainable net use through the sustainable fishing project, with 27 fishermen involved.
Pascoal learnt to swim in his mid-20’s and has been since dedicating his time to helping other Mozambique residents learn to swim. Despite its coastal location, Mozambique records a high number of drownings due to a lack of education. To help combat this, Pascoal became the first citizen to qualify as an STA Swimming Teacher. In addition, Pascoal is also an active participant of LTO’s Women’s Health Project, which hosts hold weekly community meetings that give women the space to discuss health issues and ways to address gender imbalance in the workforce.
Jose is the director of the Doha Environmental Actions Project (DEAP), an activist driven initiative in the State of Qatar. The country’s green movement is still in its fledgling stages, so the work that Jose and the volunteers do is vital to keeping the country on a sustainable path. Jose is actively involved in weekly litter clean-ups, which take place along the coast and in other locations, and he is also integral to helping inform and educate the people of Qatar about pollution in coastal zones. To date, DEAP has mobilised over 14,000 volunteers in 316 organised clean-ups, where they collected 146 tons of trash from Qatar’s beaches, sand dunes and heritage sites.
Despite being a grassroot movement and facing multiple challenges during Covid, DEAP have managed to make significant contributions to the green movement in Qatar and have even received royal recognition from the HE Sheika Al Mayassa. Following this, the HE Sheika Al Mayassa started to become very active in the environmental space and was inspired to set up an environmental committee. In recognition for his efforts in paving the way for others to follow, Jose was awarded the Othli Award in Dubai and has also launched an ongoing series of clean up drives in collaboration with Qatar Museums, The Ministry of Municipality and Environment and a local recycling company in an effort to inspire the public to take action.