My friend Anna Oposa, at 24, is the youngest person ever to win the Future for Nature award. She is unendingly inspirational and truly a force to reckon with. She is not afraid to speak out for a cause she believes in, and in pioneering marine conservation, in particular shark conservation in the Philippines.
She founded the advocacy group ‘Save Philippine Seas’, which works tirelessly to raise awareness about marine conservation issues through social media, and is a platform to petition for changes in laws and bad practices around the country.
Winning the Future for Nature award means that Anna can get started on developing, installing and setting up enforcement procedures for a “shark shelter” in Malapascua - a protected area to safeguard the Thresher Sharks, and the coral reef that houses the cleaning stations they come to visit (and therefore protects the whole ecosystem). If successful, and I have little doubt that it will be (people tend to melt at Anna’s charm), it will be the first shark sanctuary in The Philippines. A move like this will put Philippines on the international map for shark conservation, and should rally international pressure for the government to protect all shark species (at the moment only Whale Sharks are protected through CITES and CMS). The general reaction to the need to save sharks at the moment is “it’s just fish”.
Despite the overwhelming majority of the population of The Philippines living on the coast line, the protection of coral reefs, coastal areas and marine species has been sorely lacking. Times are slowly changing, and it’s thanks to some extremely committed members of the government, and the public (like Anna), that the country is starting to open it’s eyes as to the importance of their sea.