THE Order of Underwater Coal Heroes (OUCH), a volunteer organisation that operates a number of projects including reef protection, mangrove watch, seagrass watch and coral reef monitoring, has recently received Canon Oceania's 2012 Grant Award worth $5,000.
This is the seventh year the annual environmental grants program has run with $40,000 worth of Canon products on offer.
OUCH secretary and co-founder, local man Tony Fontes has been training dive instructors since 1981 and has always actively protected the marine environment including nine years as a member of the Great Barrier Reef Consultative Committee.
The volunteer group took out the 'grassroots' category for their work promoting protection of the reef and awareness projects.
Made up of professional dive-masters and instructors working closely with reef operators and visitors, OUCH runs educational programs, conducts important research and makes recommendations.
Primarily a hands-on organisation, Mr Fontes and OUCH prefer to work at the coal face rather than sit in conference rooms and talk about what should be done.
OUCH is also active in lobbying and works closely with Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service in regards to their planning policies in the Whitsundays.
Each year, nearly 1000 school children attend the OUCH Reef Discovery Program. The program teaches students the role they play in protecting the reef and natural habitat of marine species.
OUCH will use their new equipment to record data, identify and track protected species and map critical habitat which are integral components of the project.