Don DeMaria from Florida, USA was awarded the Gladding Memorial Award in 2004, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to sustainable management of fisheries and marine resources in the Gulf and Caribbean Region.
Don is the owner of Sea Samples, a small, privately owned family business specializing in the collection of marine invertebrates for bio-medical research. He has been collecting and shipping marine life since 1972 and for 22 years he worked with the Coral Reef Research Foundation traveling around the world as a diver/collector on a research grant collecting marine invertebrates for the National Cancer Institute.
Contributing to conservation:
Don DeMaria, was previously a commercial diver who hunted goliath groupers but soon realised they were worth more alive than dead! After years of over-harvesting these Goliath Grouper have made a noticeable resurgence off of Florida’s coasts and Don was featured in a short documentary by Changing Seas as an expert to share his perspective on this gentle giant along with the obstacles it faces on the road to full recovery. Catch up on the episode of Changing Seas here
Don has also contributed to efforts to create a marine reserve at the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys. After fishing was prohibited, yellowtail and mutton snapper, as well as previously overfished species such as red grouper, increased in abundance and size inside the reserve. Don hopes that these reserves will help to boost these populations so that they can extend beyond the boundaries of the spawning sites. If this works, the abundance of fish could allow fishing all year instead of having seasonal closures and other restrictions. Don recognised that protected spawning sites will work only if” they are large enough and in the right places, and the fishing rules are enforced. We cannot set them up so they are doomed to fail,” he said. Read more about a feature on him by the Pew Charitable Trusts