Diving into conservation made her a leader — and a ‘mermaid’

Growing up in Cebu, Philippines, Anna Oposa went on her first dive at the age of 15, where she saw rainbow-colored clownfish, anemones, frogfish and seahorses. “There is so much life and beauty down there,” she said.

Three years later, she saw a completely different view of the ocean when she volunteered for a reef cleanup. Fishing out plastic bags, straws, and even the occasional diaper, “suddenly, I saw the sea not just as a playground, but also as a home that needed to be protected,” she said.

Oposa decided to do something about the problem. She helped start, grow and inspire what would become Save Philippine Seas. Now 28, she’s been the executive director since the group was founded in 2011. She refers to herself as the organization’s “chief mermaid.”

Anna Oposa holding microphone, with Save Philippine Seas sign behind her (SEA Camp Team)
“Straw Wars” is one of the campaigns at Anna Oposa’s SEA Camps to reduce this common beach litter. (SEA Camp Team)

The organization’s chief projects are:

Oposa credits her positive attitude for much of her success: “Ocean optimism is in my DNA.”

“The Philippines has so many success stories of people working together to bring back healthy marine ecosystems,” Oposa said. “If we take care of the sea, it will take care of us.”

What can you do?

Anna Oposa is one of the ocean leaders at the Our Ocean conference in Washington from September 15 to 16. Share what you are doing to protect the ocean at #1KOceanActions, and you could be featured at Our Ocean, too!