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12 winners of The Ocean Awards

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The Ocean Awards winner Pharrell Williams
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Winner — Personality: Pharrell Williams

For — his role as creative director of Bionic Yarn

Photo of Pharrell Williams by Ned and Aya for G-Star RAW

The Personality award at The Oceans Awards goes to the person in the public eye who has done the most to promote awareness of the crisis in the oceans.

Best known for the perfectly crafted, incredibly catchy and hugely commercial songs Happy, Get Lucky (with Daft Punk) and, more controversially, Blurred Lines (written and produced for Robin Thicke), all of which have sold several million apiece, Pharrell Williams is also creative director of Bionic Yarn.

The company, founded in 2009 by Tyson Toussant and Tim Coombs in New York, produces what it calls “the world’s first high-performance eco yarn”. Using fibres spun from plastic discarded in oceans or collected from shorelines, it creates “fabrics that are as strong as they are soft” by combining them with cotton. Its first collection used 10 tonnes of recycled PET plastic bottles – 700,000 bottles that might otherwise still be at sea, endangering wildlife and marine habitats – to produce jeans and other casual apparel in a collaboration with Dutch fashion brand G-Star RAW. The autumn/winter collection bore the strapline: “Turning the tide on ocean pollution.”

Williams’ involvement with Bionic Yarn has enabled the company to partner with several higher-profile brands to spread the message, and it is now in partnership with Timberland, with which it has launched a line of boots made entirely from plastics recovered from the sea, as well as Gap and Cole Haan. “We have a connection with the ocean,” says Williams. “It yields so much life. We owe it.”

Highly commended — Helena Bonham Carter, British actress and activist

For – stripping off and being photographed naked, hugging a 27kg bigeye tuna, especially when you are, as Bonham Carter puts it, “actually very phobic about fish”. The photograph was picked up by the world’s media and went viral.

In short, it achieved exactly what Blue Marine Foundation, which organised the shoot to raise awareness for its campaign to create more marine reserves in the UK Overseas Territories, set out to do.

Highly commended — Leonardo DiCaprio, American actor

For – belying his screen personae of the doomed steerage passenger in Titanic to Jordan Belfort (whose 1961 superyacht Nadine, originally built for Coco Chanel, sank off Sardinia in 1996) in The Wolf of Wall Street, both of whom didn’t have much luck on the water. But the stellar actor and producer is a committed environmentalist and philanthropist. He has pledged to donate $7 million to ocean conservation projects, urging leaders worldwide to “make ocean viability a priority […] to ensure the health of the oceans that are so vital to people’s lives all around the world”. And last summer the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation raised $40 million through a gala evening for the preservation of the ocean and environment.

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