Clean Coasts hosted the Ocean Hero Awards Ceremony at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel ,Golden Lane in Dublin, to celebrate and thank the groups, individuals, communities, and businesses who, throughout the year, have done outstanding work to protect their local coastline and environment.
Each year, the Ocean Hero Awards honour the invaluable contribution Clean Coasts volunteers, groups and communities have made towards conserving our spectacular coastline. Established in 2006 as the ‘Clean Coasts’ Merit Awards,’ the accolades initially featured a single category, ‘The Clean Coasts Group of the Year.’ Over the years, the program has evolved, engaging over 2,000 Clean Coasts groups and 40,000 volunteers, becoming an integral part of coastal communities nationwide.
This year, the Ocean Hero Awards take on special significance as Clean Coasts marks its 20th Anniversary. This year, Clean Coasts has chosen 7 dedicated categories with a total of 33 groups, organisations and individuals shortlisted for the title of Ocean Hero within each category. During the ceremony, the work and achievements of all 33 groups have been showcased and celebrated, and winners for each category have been announced:
In County Wexford, Tomhaggard Tidy Towns won the Group of the Year Category. The group started focussing on the White Hole area and it has grown to 50+ members in three years, diverse in backgrounds and ages. In the summer of 2023, they collected over 8 tons of waste along a 25-km beach stretch. Beyond weekly cleans, the group is socially active, participating in events like the Clean Coast Roadshow. Their Clean Coasts grant funded educational activities, including a Re-Discovery Centre workshop for their Lobsterpot project, diverting 200 pots from landfill. They collaborated with DCU’s ACCOMPLISH Project and Rosa Rugosa for a project on tackling invasive species.
Moreover, David Kirwin and Aaron Cousins – two teenagers who volunteer with Tomhaggard Clean Coasts Group – were shortlisted in the Youth of the Year category. These two volunteers were regular faces at the Tomhaggard Clean Coasts weekly clean ups throughout the summer 2023 and were very popular members of the group, showing particular enthusiasm to remove items which were buried in the sand. Aaron volunteered to speak to the journalist for a radio interview on behalf of the group and both joined the groups biodiversity trip to the Saltee Islands. .
Commenting on the 2023 Ocean Heroes awards ceremony, the Minister for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, congratulated the winners and stated: “I believe that communities are where real, impactful change can be made for nature. When I engage with community groups in coastal areas and hear their thoughts and views on the marine environment, I know that I am working with an audience that is dedicated to ensuring that we have clean healthy, biologically diverse and sustainably used seas that are resilient to climate change. Their on-going efforts play a huge part in helping the whole country to achieve these aims.”
Shane Dineen, Environment & Planning Manager at Fáilte Ireland added: “The Clean Coasts brand is synonymous with environmental excellence, and its community engagement initiatives and environmental campaigns are undeniably contributing to the preservation of our coastal environment. The Ocean Hero Awards stand as a tribute to the relentless effort, dedication, and commitment of individuals, volunteers, groups, and the broader community in ensuring the longevity of our oceans. The diverse array of entries and the remarkable initiatives across the country are both striking and heartening and Fáilte Ireland is proud to support such a crucial programme that prioritises community and good will above all else.”
Further information on the Clean Coasts Ocean Heroes can be found on the Clean Coasts website for updates here.