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From Green Right Now Reports

On the just the second annual World Oceans Day, the world seems to be making a bigger mess than ever of its marine resources as the BP spill spews gooey crude across the Gulf of Mexico.

But against that backdrop, the work of Oceana’s honorees for the day, stands out as critically important. The two top winners of Oceana’s Ocean Heroes

Dr. Jay Holcomb, IBRRC director

Dr. Jay Holcomb, IBRRC director

competition are:

  • Dr. Jay Holcomb, director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center. Holcomb, who normally works at the Center’s home base in the Bay Area, Calif., has temporarily relocated to Venice, La., where he the IBRRC is working along with Tri-State Bird Rescue to clean and rehabilitate oiled birds caught in the gulf disaster. Holcomb, who has worked for 40 years in wildlife rehabilitation, is receiving the top award in the adult category.
  • The Shark Finatics, a group of students at the Green Chimneys School in Brewster, N.Y., a school for emotionally injured kids, are being honored as the top junior Ocean Heroes. These children, ages 12-17 , have been spreading awareness about and raising money to fight the barbaric practice of shark-finning, cutting off a shark’s fins (for shark
    The Shark Finatics from the Green Chimneys School

    The Shark Finatics from the Green Chimneys School

    fin soup) and leaving it to die. Many species of sharks are already endangered because of the decline in prey. The Finatics have raised more than $2,000 toward shark conservation.

“It’s particularly poignant that I have won this award in the midst of the greatest oil spill disaster in U.S. history,” said Holcomb in a statement.

“My career stems from a passion that has burned in me since I was a child. I have always approached my work as trying to change the world one bird at a time. My hope is that this award reminds people that whatever we can do personally to protect our oceans does make a difference, no matter how overwhelming the task may seem at times.”

True to that passion, Holcomb has worked at more than 200 spill response sites around the world, and led bird rescue efforts at the Exxon Valdez spill. He also oversaw the rescue of 20,000 oiled African penguins at a spill in South Africa.

The Finatics were thrilled to win the top junior award, said their teacher Robin Culler, who helped found the group three years ago. The Shark Finatics includes 26 students this year. The kids have educated hundreds about the barbaric practice of shark finning and written to President Obama and the Congress to support shark conservation.

The Oceana competition, launched in March, asked the public to submit nominations, then a group of finalists was selected by experts from Oceana. Oceana’s online supporters and others voted to choose the winners from among the finalists, whose profiles can be seen at the Oceana website.

The winners will be honored at a World Oceans Day party in Los Angeles, sponsored by the clothing line Nautica, GQ magazine and Oceana. They will also receive a $500 Nautica gift car and a $200 card and Raiatea binoculars from West Marine.

Oceana also is running a campaign, called Stop the Drill, to help prevent future oil disasters. The California-based non-profit, whose supporters include actors Ted Danson and Pierce Brosnan, invites the public to visit the website and learn more.