Award-winning conservationist and fishing guide Captain Benny Blanco served as guest speaker 

Calusa Waterkeeper, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, preservation, and restoration of the Caloosahatchee River and its watershed, proudly presented its annual champions for clean water awards to individuals who have worked tirelessly in the fight for clean water. The award presentation took place at the Calusa Waterkeeper’s annual meeting, ‘Our Water, Our Future, Ours to Protect’ on Sunday, March 24, at The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village. The featured guest speaker was award-winning conservationist and fishing guide, Captain Benny Blanco, who spoke on the state of the water and our fight to protect and restore it 

The gathering brought community leaders, environmentalists, and supporters together to celebrate the organization’s achievements over the past year and discuss upcoming initiatives to safeguard the region’s vital waterways.  

Mary Kay Kralapp and Dan Carney were both presented with the Volunteer of the Year Award for their service on the Ranger leadership team, development of new curriculum for the ranger program, tabling at public events and assistance in important advocacy initiatives such as the Right to Clean Water bill and Chiquita Lock hearing 

Mike Hannon was named Advocate of the Year for his tireless effort challenging the removal of the Chiquita Lock, providing thousands of pro-bono hours. Petitioners maintain that the removal of the lock will have negative impacts on water quality, endangered species and their habitats in the Caloosahatchee estuary.   

Holly Schwartz received the Friend of Calusa Waterkeeper of the Year Award for the important roles she plays for Southwest Florida advocacy and vigilance of local policy-making and public notices. She was the first to sound the alarm on the surprise proposal to change the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve boundary.  

Captain Benny Blanco thanked all guests for being “water warriors” and challenged each of them to continue the vital fight for clean water.  

The annual meeting and awards luncheon was sponsored in part by Manatee & Eco River Tours, Florida Gulf Coast University, Aubuchon Homes, Wicked Dolphin, Arthur Printing, Suncoast Beverages and Cat Chase Media.  

Calusa Waterkeeper invites individuals, businesses, and organizations to become champions for clean water to support Calusa Waterkeeper’s science-based programs and initiatives that help protect and restore our Caloosahatchee River, from Lake Okeechobee to our coastal waters, Boca Grande to Bonita Beach. Ongoing projects throughout the year include Vertical Oyster Gardens, Ranger Training, Water Quality Testing, and Air Quality Monitoring which focus specifically on water quality’s impact on human health, ecosystems, and aquatic life. For more information about Calusa Waterkeeper, visit calusawaterkeeper.org or call 239-899-1440.