Anna Oposa directs her creativity and enthusiasm to protect marine biodiversity and resources in the Philippines. At the very young age of 23, Anna co-founded the NGO “Save Philippine Seas”, hoping to mobilise a generation of Filipinos that care about the future of their country. Anna uses her charisma to passionately push people to come together and change their behaviour. Her dedication to the conservation of the Philippine marine environment has resulted in grassroots interventions, media and public campaigns, and multilateral negotiations on wildlife trade. Because shark conservation holds a special place in her heart, in 2012, she spearheaded the first shark and ray sanctuary in the Philippines. Anna also started a programme to empower youth to become leaders in conservation. Today, there are already 250 alumni tackling conservation issues and inspiring others in all 10 Southeast Asian countries.
As a teen, Anna Oposa was a performing artist and writer. This changed as she decided to shift the focus of her career to marine conservation in 2011. Now, Anna is a multi-hyphenated change maker who lives a life dedicated to saving the Philippine Seas. Her father pioneered environmental law in the Philippines. So, from a young age Anna was exposed to the Philippine environment and its issues. She easily fell in love with its nature and waters and was inspired to take action. In her quest, she founded several successful education programmes, campaigns and organisations. After graduating from her BA in English Studies, Anna heard about the destruction of a significant portion of the Philippines’ coral reef. She then co-founded the NGO “Save Philippine Seas” in 2011 and began working as Officer in Charge, Environmental Policy and Law Compliance for the Law of Nature Foundation. Anna Oposa has kept herself actively involved in marine conservation since winning the FFN Award. She started the Shark Shelter Project in 2012, which builds the capacity of local communities in Daanbantayan to protect thresher sharks. And in 2015 she founded the Sea and Earth Advocates Camp, an environmental education and leadership programme that empowers youth aged 18-23 to become conservation leaders like her.
Vision and Approach
Anna wants to foster a generation of Filipinos who care about the future of their country. The Philippines harbour a vast diversity of marine species. This includes 5 out of 6 species of marine turtles, the largest species of fish – the whale shark, and even more species of coral than the Great Barrier Reef. As Anna puts it in her TEDx Talk, “The Philippines is worth diving for!”, and it is a shame to lose such richness. Through her work and that of Save Philippines Seas (SPS), she effectively pushes for governments to enforce the law. As an example, Anna successfully exposed companies trading wildlife products illegally, leading to her testifying in court and causing media uproar. This granted her influence alongside the Congress, Senate, and local governments. Anna is an avid communicator. She is regularly called to give talks and lectures in schools, companies, and communities; and has been a contributor for several media outlets. In 2015, she helped establish the shark sanctuary in the hope that marine conservation can bring value to the local people. Thresher sharks, for instance, can be seen almost daily in the site, being cleaned by cleaner fish, a rare behaviour that attracts tourists from all over the world. But illegal fishing and low environmental law compliance were threatening the species. By engaging, educating, and empowering citizens (or as SPS calls them, seatizens) to take action for conservation, Anna aims to make people more mindful about how their decisions can impact our natural environment.
“My goal is not as easy as it sounds: I want to create a generation of Philippinos who care about the country because the worst environmental issue is not pollution, not global warming, but apathy. My goal is to make people care.”Anna Oposa
Impact of the Future For Nature Award
- With the Future For Nature Award funds, Anna helped establish a sanctuary for the pelagic thresher sharks near Malapascua Island.
- Anna used the financial resources to support capacity-building activities with law enforcers and educators by creating a law enforcement team, and incorporating sustainable practices in school operations.
- FFN also enabled stakeholder consultations to collect data for the amendment of existing legislation.
"Anna is not a typical candidate for this award coming from an artistic rather than a scientific background, but with her relentless pursuit of ideals and using all tools of skill, contacts, democratic processes available, she has shown herself a brave and inspiring champion."Mr. John MacKinnon, International Selection Committee