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2012 Sea Hero of the Year: Jill Heinerth

By Mary Frances Emmons | Updated On January 29, 2024
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2012 Sea Hero of the Year: Jill Heinerth

Sea Hero of the Year 2012 Jill Heinerth

Sea Hero of the Year 2012 Jill Heinerth

Courtesy Jill Heinerth

Filmmaker, cave diver and passionate spokesperson for water conservation, Jill Heinerth — recipient of the Sea Heroes award in our September/October issue — has been selected as the 2012 Sea Hero of the Year. Scuba Diving magazine recognized Heinerth for using her deep knowledge of some of the Earth’s most remote and pristine places to help ordinary people understand that water conservation begins and ends with individuals.

Check out all of Heinerth's stories on cave diving and exploration

“I feel incredibly honored and humbled to be named Sea Hero of the Year,” says Heinerth. “I am just one of the many foot soldiers among so many people doing great work and advocacy for our planet’s water resources. Receiving this award might give my work greater outreach, and that’s a wonderful thing!”

Helping individuals make the connection between their activities on land and how those choices affect their water resources is the focus of Heinerth’s current project, the We Are Water documentary and traveling water-conservation road show (

“Through my career, I have seen some significant changes in the quality and quantity of water coming out of our groundwater resources, and I worry,” she says. “It’s time to act, and time to help people understand the circulatory system of the planet. ‘Interconnectivity’ is a catchword, but I hope I can give people a real understanding of how everything they do affects our water planet.”

How will the $5,000 cash help further the We Are Water project?

“Right now we are wrapping up a documentary film and creating materials that will help people communicate the message of water literacy in classrooms and groups all over the world. We’re also looking ahead to organizing more speaking engagements where we can meet people in small groups and large audiences.

“In the coming year, we are planning a 5,000-mile bicycle ride where we will blog, post and present the We Are Water project along our way as we learn about local issues and challenges that people face.

“It’s a big agenda, but it is the most important work I have ever done.”

Her efforts were applauded by V.J. Geronimo, CEO at Oris Watches USA.

“We at Oris are proud of our continued sponsorship of the Sea Heroes program and salute this year’s Sea Hero of the Year, Jill Heinerth.

“In 2012, five special individuals earned the ‘Sea Hero’ designation for their unique work in the marine world. Oris has a long-standing commitment to marine conservation. We make ‘real watches for real people’ — individuals who do things, as opposed to just talking about them. Our Sea Heroes are the personification of this philosophy, and Jill Heinerth’s work has made her the 2012 Sea Hero of the Year.”

Engaging and accessible despite her impressive personal accomplishments, the Women Divers Hall of Famer seems like a natural for this important evangelizing work, furthering her “love affair with water.” She’s already on the road.

“I realize that I can move people when I can speak to them peer to peer. Being on camera is one thing, but speaking to people personally makes a big difference, reaching people one at a time and helping them understand that small changes in their daily behaviors can make a difference. To that end, I hope to do a lot more motivational speaking and a lot more work with young people.

“The response has been amazing so far. We’ve met really diverse groups in many different geographic regions, and have learned about local issues that are deeply affecting people’s lives. Overall, people seem to be getting a feeling of empowerment when they get the information they need.

“Essentially, nobody wants to pollute. Nobody wants to overuse critical resources, but sometimes they don’t know how to lessen their water footprint. I feel like we are able to give people hope and give them a sense of usefulness so they can be a part of the solution.”

What is a Sea Hero?

Each Sea Hero featured in Scuba Diving receives an Oris Diver’s Date watch (worth $1,595). At the end of the year, a panel of judges selects one overall winner, who receives a $5,000 cash award to further his or her work. Nominate a Sea Hero here.