Fontes awarded for coast care

TONY and Beverly Fontes of the Order of Underwater Coral Heroes (OUCH) have been awarded a prestigious Coastcare Local Hero medal for their outstanding contribution to repairing and protecting the Whitsunday's magnificent coast.

Mr Fontes said it was fantastic to receive the award.

"It is a privilege and honour to receive it and we really appreciate it," Mr Fontes said.

"We have been working very hard and this award is for all of the OUCH volunteers not just myself and Beverly."

As part of Coastcare Week (3-9 December) supported by Iron Man legend and health and environment champion Guy Leech, local heroes such as Tony and Beverly Fontes from OUCH have received Coastcare medals for tireless work in protecting local coastal environments.

The Order of Underwater Coral Heroes (OUCH) is a group of internationally recognised volunteers dedicated to the protection of coral reefs in the Whitsunday Islands. The group is involved in Seagrass Watch (monitoring seagrass meadows) and Mangrove Watch (monitoring mangrove forests) as well as the Reef Protection Program. The group consists of volunteer divers, skippers, marine biologists, surveyors and keen snorklers and is dedicated to research, education and advocacy.

They have identified poor anchoring practices as a major source of degradation of the reef in the Whitsunday Islands over the last 20 years.

As a result, the Reef Protection Program has been activated to reduce the damage caused by over 300 boats that can sail through the reef at any one time.

With widespread community support and an on-going education campaign, the OUCH volunteers are well advanced toward their goal of reducing human induced stress on the coral reef by every means possible.

"This award will raise awareness of our group and our projects and people may take us more seriously," Mr Fontes said.

Coastcare Ambassador Guy Leech said "These people are putting in a huge amount and time and effort. The results they achieve are truly remarkable. It is more crucial than ever to get the balance right between enjoying our natural resources now and conserving them for future generations. Coastcare heroes give up their own time to make sure the coast remains spectacular."

The Coastcare movement has 60,000 volunteers in 2,000 community groups around the country, all contributing towards keeping the Aussie coast beautiful.

"Increasing storm activity and other extreme events caused by climate change are threatening our coast and Coastcare groups are building resilience into the coastline through projects such as dune revegetation and reef monitoring initiatives" said Brian Scarsbrick, Coastcare CEO.

"Coastcare is all about doing something practical to protect and repair Australia's coastline. More volunteers are always needed. Just go to www.coastcare.com.au and look up your local group to get going."

"When it comes to preserving our coastal areas, team work is the key and the more people that get involved, the better," Brian Scarsbrick added

"Coastcare Week shines the spotlight on local heroes making a difference to their coastal and marine environment."

If you kow any other unsung environmental heroes in the Whitsundays nominate them for a Local Hero medal. Simply email localhero@coastcare.com.au with information on the candidate's and their contact details.


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