Monday, November 4, 2013

2013 Sea Hero of the Year: Rick MacPherson

Building a global team of effective local conservation leaders in a half-dozen countries is no small feat, but for Rick MacPherson, it is only a means to a higher end: empowering local people to believe that conservation starts at home.

For his efforts, MacPherson — our August issue Sea Hero — has been selected as the 2013 Sea Hero of the Year. Scuba Diving magazine and Oris, the sponsor of the Sea Heroes program, recognized MacPherson for his work partnering with local communities around the world to address problems like water pollution, overfishing and unsustainable tourism.

“As a life-long and avid diver, it’s remarkably satisfying to be recognized in this way,” says MacPherson. “The Sea Hero of the Year Award is a tremendous validation of the work I am trying to accomplish. I’m both flattered and honored by this recognition.”

MacPherson’s vision for coral-reef conservation is that every local reef community should be able to reach out to a neighboring village, island or nation for the assistance they need to solve their reef challenges. “There’s something powerful and fundamentally different about local reef communities helping other reef communities that outside assistance cannot begin to match,” he says. “I see my work as helping to identify and build these local leadership teams and ‘nodes of excellence.’ It’s exciting and certainly ambitious, but the payoff potential for reefs and people into the future is off the charts.”

“Too often, calls for conservation assistance come to my attention that I’m unable to act upon because funds aren’t available. The nature of marine conservation work — or any conservation work — is that the need far outweighs the resources available to act,” he says. “The Sea Hero of the Year Award will allow me to expand my conservation efforts beyond the restrictions that grants typically place around my work.”

MacPherson’s efforts — and those of all of the 2013 Sea Heroes — were applauded by V.J. Geronimo, CEO at Oris Watches USA.

“We are thrilled to honor Rick MacPherson as the 2013 Sea Hero of the year for his global work in community-based conservation. As in past years, it was difficult to choose just one winner, when each of our Sea Heroes has done tremendous work — this year’s causes included coral-reef restoration, retraining of local fisherman, protection of coral reefs, creation of shark sanctuaries and advocating on behalf of the marine environment of Thailand,” Geronimo said. “We at Oris continue to be strong supporters of marine conservation and are proud to be the sponsor of the Sea Heroes program, now in its third year. These individuals have made selfless contributions to the marine environment and personify ‘real people.’”

After many years with the Coral Reef Alliance, MacPherson recently has started a new chapter in his career, with new challenges: working with stakeholders to resolve dive shop, resort and local government conflicts around shark diving in the Playa del Carmen area of Mexico; advising Bluecology, a local start-up conservation organization in the San Francisco Bay area; and working with a team of deep-sea scientists and conservation biologists in exploring possible legal action to protect deep seafloor ecosystems from questionably safe and highly experimental seafloor mining in Papua New Guinea. You can follow his progress on Facebook at Rick MacPherson and on Twitter at @rmacpherson.

“I’m a big believer in the power of social media as a means of connecting people far and wide. I welcome any interested readers to follow me,” MacPherson says.

The Sea Heroes Award is sponsored by Scuba Diving and Oris Watches. Each Sea Hero receives an Oris Diver’s Date watch (worth $1,595). Judges select one overall winner, who receives a $5,000 cash award from Oris to further his or her work. Nominate a Sea Hero at


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