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12 winners of The Ocean Awards

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The Ocean Awards winner Greenpeace UK Oceans Team
12

Winner- Judges' Award: Greenpeace UK Oceans Team

For – its outstanding contribution to campaigns

Photo of oceans campaigner Willie Mackenzie by Ben Harries

The Judges' Award is for a campaigning group, company or individual, outside of the previous categories, whom the judges wish to recognise for their outstanding overall efforts in marine conservation throughout the year. Greenpeace UK Oceans Team is a winner at The Ocean Awards thanks to its outstanding contribution to campaigns to save important marine habitats, protect endangered species, create marine reserves and push for important governance reforms in fisheries.

At home and overseas, Greenpeace UK’s oceans team has successfully campaigned on a number of key issues over the past year. In Australia, it deterred investors from funding a mega-mine that threatened to cause devastation to part of the Great Barrier Reef. In the Pacific, the campaign to save the vaquita, the world’s most endangered cetacean, helped mobilise international pressure to implement a ban on the use of gillnets. And through a combination of political lobbying, legal challenges and investigative work, “we’ve been able to give a big voice to small-scale fishers”, says Willie Mackenzie, Greenpeace UK’s longstanding oceans campaigner, not least in securing far-reaching reform of Europe’s fisheries laws that will benefit both marine ecosystems and the coastal communities that depend on them for their livelihoods.

Mackenzie is quick to acknowledge, however, that Greenpeace’s successes depend on collaborations and coalitions he and his fellow campaigners forge with other NGOs and marine organisations, and campaigns such as Selfridges’ Project Ocean, the BBC’s Big Blue Live and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Hugh’s Fish Fight.

As to the difference Greenpeace UK is making globally, he points to its efforts to clean up the tuna industry. “We have a lot of different abilities,” Mackenzie says, “intervening at all stages of the supply chain. For example, we can be under cover on the boats, tackling overfishing; and under cover in processing plants. We can be in the market place looking at what’s on supermarket shelves, holding retailers and brands to account. We’ve got all the big UK supermarket chains sourcing their tuna sustainably now. 

“It’s a matter of getting the people providing the fish to do the right thing. I think we’ve really turned the corner on that in the UK. There was a time when they didn’t seem to understand that frozen fish and canned fish were also fish. But now the major supermarkets are falling over themselves to be seen as being as good as possible. Even companies like Tesco, which has had a lot of bad press, are way ahead [compared with a lot of their international peers]”.

He also points to Greenpeace UK’s work in the Arctic: the signing of an international agreement to prevent unregulated fishing that was signed in Oslo in July 2015, an important step towards securing the region’s status as a marine sanctuary; and Shell’s decision to abandon its exploration and drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea. As Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said at the time: “Big oil has sustained an unmitigated defeat. They had a budget of billions, we had a movement of millions. For three years we faced them down, and the people won.”

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