The Finalists Of The Ocean Awards 2020

The Finalists Of The Ocean Awards 2020

BOAT International is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2020 Ocean Awards. Held in partnership with Blue Marine Foundation, one of the UK’s leading ocean conservation charities, the winners will be announced in the June 2020 issue of BOAT International.

Now in its fifth year, the Ocean Awards continue to recognise and reward those that share our commitment to fixing the largest solvable problem on the planet – the crisis in our oceans.

We are delighted to have Crystal Caviar as a pro bono partner of the Ocean Awards and pleased to share that they will be creating the physical awards for this year’s event. 

The Local Hero Award finalists

This category in the Ocean Awards recognises the individual or (grassroots/community-based/local) group that has had the most positive impact on the marine environment within their local community this year. The winner will be a recognised leader on marine conservation issues within their community. Special attention will be paid to those working in an unfavourable environment or circumstances.

Criteria: Nominees for this award must have a) initiated a promising effort for the benefit of the ocean within their community, or b) significantly improved, advanced, or revived an existing effort towards new achievements.

The finalists are:

  • Eric Quayson - Wildseas
  • Swietenia Puspa Lestari - Divers Clean Action
  • Veta Wade - Fish ‘n Fins
  • The Island Initiative - Anaa Atoll - Tavahiroa Elementary School

Eric Quayson - Wildseas

Eric Quayson lives in Axim, Ghana and has worked with the marine conservation organisation Wildseas since 2012. He started as a translator between Wildseas staff and the local fishermen, where he interviewed them about the high bycatch rates of turtles and how they were sold for their meat. Eric, who comes from a fishing family, is now dedicated to communicating the importance of turtles to not only ecosystem health but local fisheries, while also conducting rescue and tagging operations.

Eric serves as a vital connection between Wildseas and the artisanal fishermen. Since 2013 he has led the ‘Safe Release’ programme that now involves over 300 fishing boats. The programme secures a commitment from fishermen to safely release turtles caught in their nets, in return for minor compensation and safety gear for their boats. Many of the turtles are fitted with flipper tags so Wildseas can monitor their movements. Eric has secured the release of over 1,400 endangered sea turtles that would otherwise have been sold and killed. Through educating fishermen and raising public awareness, he has gained the respect of Chief Fishermen in towns throughout Nzema East. In January 2020, Eric and his work in Axim, wider south-west Ghana and Gambia was featured in an article by Forbes.

Swietenia Puspa Lestari - Divers Clean Action

Divers Clean Action (DCA) is a youth non-governmental organisation (NGO) that focuses on marine pollution. DCA partners with universities to conduct marine debris research and collaborates with diving institutions to organise ocean clean ups. Founded by Swietenia Puspa Lestari (24 years old), DCA now has ten full-time staff and 1,500 volunteers working across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Through a programme called Save our Oceans and Small Islands (SOSIS) under The Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation, DCA has established ‘Eco-trips’ where young people can join diving and snorkelling trips while helping to collect marine pollution. Through this programme, DCA aims to increase the reduction and recycling rate of islands in Kepulauan Seribu, Jakarta.

In 2017, Swietenia also initiated the #nostrawmovement campaign in the country, which saw the reduction of single use plastic straws in more than 700 KFC restaurants.

Veta Wade - Fish ‘n Fins

Veta Wade is leading a pioneering effort to build an ocean conservation ethos on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, with a focus on hands-on education for youth. Fish ‘n Fins, the organisation Veta founded and leads, has taught many of the island's children to swim and snorkel and has introduced them to marine ecology and conservation. This work has had beautiful ripple effects throughout the community and is building the next generation of ocean stewards.

Veta has formed long-term partnerships with major organisations and institutions such as the Waitt Institute, Brown University and Google’s Moonshot Factory. By 2023, Veta plans to set up a Fish ‘n Fins youth committee on every Caribbean island to improve the sustainable use of ocean resources and aims for at least half of Caribbean children to be able to swim by 2030. Most recently, Veta was appointed as a council member for the Montserratian Government’s Conservation and Environmental Management Act.

The Island Initiative - Anaa Atoll - Tavahiroa Elementary School

Anaa Atoll is located in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. Despite its beauty, the island’s economic development is impeded by a lack of jobs and most families rely on subsistence fishing for food security. Education for children on the island ceases at ten years of age, meaning they must travel to Papeete (the capital) or to France to continue their education. As a result, the population is dwindling. Due to poor management, they also have a declining lagoon bonefish (or kioko) fishery. In 2015, a charity called The Island Initiative created the Anaa Atoll Project with the aim to create a small-scale tourism venture (catch and release kiokio fly fishing) that would bring income to the local community, while also sustainably managing their lagoon fishery.

In partnership with The Island Initiative and following the vote to impose a Rahui (a temporary closed season) during the kiokio spawning migration, the Tavahiroa Elementary School of Anaa Atoll have created a ‘Marine Educational Area’ (MEA). This was led by Mr Jean Pierre Beaury and the pupils, who were between six and ten years old. The two-kilometre MEA is a fish migration zone between the lagoon and the ocean that kiokio use during their spawning migration. For the students, this area will be used to teach them about marine conservation. The achievements of the school will help to preserve the lagoon's biodiversity, encourage ecotourism opportunities and protect food security for the community and for future generations.

The Science Award finalists

This award recognises the individual or research team that has made an original scientific contribution about the ocean this year.

Criteria: Nominees for this award must have significantly contributed towards a peer-reviewed publication of a game-changing scientific study that is directly useful for the benefit of global marine conservation or ocean health.

The finalists are:

  • Dr Rainer Froese - FishBase
  • Dr Rashid Sumaila - Benefits of the Paris Agreement to ocean life, economies, and people & Updated estimates and analysis of global fisheries subsidies
  • Dr Steve Simpson - South West Aquatic Group
  • Dr Malin Pinksy - _Greater vulnerability to warming of marine versus terrestrial ectotherm_s
  • Dr Sasha Tetu - Plastic leachates impair growth and oxygen production in Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria

Dr Rainer Froese - FishBase

Dr Rainer Froese is a German fisheries scientist who, alongside Daniel Pauly and Nicolas Bailly, created FishBase, the wildly successful online encyclopaedia on fish. He is a Senior Scientist for the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Germany, and has dedicated decades to fisheries research (see bio here). From 2015 to 2019, Froese led the development of a set of three computer-intensive methods and software for assessing the status of data-poor fisheries. These fisheries are common on a global scale, notably in the developing countries of the Southern Hemisphere.

Dr Froese’s new methods are already being widely applied in southern Europe, West Africa, India and China. As these new methods allow fisheries to be assessed in a straightforward yet rigorous way, they represent a revolution in fisheries science. Depending on data availability, the three methods can also be combined, creating a very powerful analysis tool.

Dr Rashid Sumaila - 1. Benefits of the Paris Agreement to ocean life, economies, and people 2. Updated estimates and analysis of global fisheries subsidies

The Paris Agreement aims to mitigate potential impacts of climate change on ecological and social systems. However, climate sceptics have questioned how implementing the Agreement would benefit people. To provide a comprehensive response to such critics, Sumaila and his co-authors developed an ensemble of climate-marine ecosystem and economic models and explored the effects of implementing the Agreement on fish, fishers and seafood consumers worldwide. The authors found that implementing the Agreement could protect millions of tonnes in annual worldwide catch of top revenue generating fish species, as well as billions of dollars of fishers’ revenues, seafood workers’ income and household seafood expenditure. Overall, seventy-five per cent of maritime countries would benefit from this protection and about 90 per cent of this protected catch would occur within territorial waters of developing countries. Therefore, the paper suggests that implementing the Agreement could prove to be crucial for the future of ocean ecosystems and economies, making a very powerful contribution to the debate..

The period from 2019 to 2020 will determine whether the World Trade Organisation (WTO), tasked with eliminating capacity-enhancing fisheries subsidies, will be able to deliver to the world an agreement that disciplines these subsidies that lead to overfishing. To support the ongoing WTO negotiations, Sumaila led a group of co-authors to provide the latest analysis of the current level of subsidisation provided to the fisheries sector worldwide by governments.

Global fisheries subsidies were estimated at USD 35 billion in 2018, of which the lion’s share of USD 22 billion was capacity-enhancing. The top five subsidising political entities (China, European Union, USA, Republic of Korea and Japan) contributed over 50 per cent of the total estimated subsidies. Furthermore, the bulk of harmful capacity-enhancing subsidies, particularly those for fossil fuels have increased as a proportion of total subsidies. This paper has become the key resource for countries and civil society organisations working relentlessly to ensure that the WTO reaches an agreement to discipline harmful subsidies. This highly comprehensive analysis has made a significant contribution to the science and policy aspects of fisheries subsidies.

Dr Steve Simpson - South West Aquatic Group

In response to the growing EcoGrief experienced by Dr Steve Simpson, Tim Gordon and their collaborators while working in degraded marine environments, their research focus has advanced from simply assessing and monitoring impacts of environmental damage (e.g. coral reef bleaching and anthropogenic noise) to innovating novel solutions for conservation and ecosystem restoration. Their 2018 research has demonstrated that the once bustling but now devastated Great Barrier Reef has turned quiet. The silence negatively affects the likelihood that future generations of fish and other reef creatures will ever return and make these compromised habitats their home, since they use the soundscape to decide where to live. By replaying historic recordings of healthy coral reefs, the research team are enriching soundscapes around degraded habitats to rebuild fish communities, thus accelerating and ensuring successful recovery. This study was published in November 2019 and has been widely featured across the global media.

Dr Malin Pinksy - Greater vulnerability to warming of marine versus terrestrial ectotherms

In May 2019, Dr Malin Pinksy and his research team published ‘Greater vulnerability to warming of marine versus terrestrial ectotherms’ in the journal Nature. This is the first comparison of differences in vulnerability to climate change between marine and terrestrial animals. The central conclusion was that global warming hits sea creatures hardest. Among cold-blooded species around the world, Dr Pinksy found that marine animals are more likely to live on the edge of their upper temperature limits than terrestrial animals. Dr Pinksy also found that marine animal populations were disappearing at double the rate of terrestrial populations. These results were momentous because the impacts of climate change on marine life were virtually ignored just a decade ago. The results are helping to focus attention on the vulnerability of marine life to climate change and the need for active conservation efforts.

Dr Sasha Tetu - Plastic leachates impair growth and oxygen production in Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria

Dr Sasha Tetu has been pioneering in considering how plastic pollution can affect ecologically important marine bacteria. In May 2019, Dr Tetu and others published work demonstrating that Prochlorococcus, the most globally abundant photosynthetic marine bacteria, is adversely affected by plastic leachates. This adverse effect was seen both in terms of Prochlorococcus’ growth and its capacity to photosynthesise and produce oxygen. The results of this research also indicate that different strains of this bacteria vary in their sensitivity. This suggests some Prochlorococcus groups may tolerate the threat of plastic pollution better than others and there may be “winners and losers” in ocean regions which experience high levels of plastics.

In publicising the sensitivity of key beneficial microbes to human pollutants, Dr Tetu hopes to encourage greater consideration of microorganisms in monitoring and assessment of environmental stressors. Determining the sensitivity and adaptability of these organisms to common pollutants will ensure we have better knowledge to predict, and potentially mitigate, the impact of increasing marine plastic pollution.

The Innovation Award finalists

This award recognises the individual, company or group that have this year publicly introduced innovative measures for reducing stress on the oceans or for improving ocean health; such measures might include business operations which are not undertaken at the expense of the marine environment or development of promising new technologies that benefit of the marine environment.

Criteria: Nominees for this award must have undertaken activities or commitments to significantly develop or implement products, services, processes, or measures that have – or are likely to have – a positive impact on the health of the marine environment.

The finalists are:

  • Migratory Connectivity in the Ocean (MiCO System)
  • SafetyNet Technologies
  • X Shore
  • Dr Melissa Garren – Pelagic Data Systems

Migratory Connectivity in the Ocean (MiCO System)

Ocean basin-scale migrations of sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds and fish expose them to multiple stressors and governance regimes. Understanding how migratory species use and connect the oceans is crucial for their conservation. While the amount of data describing migratory movements is growing exponentially, the results of these studies remain buried in scientific literature and are only communicated via direct contact with the authors. This bottleneck in the delivery of critical ecological knowledge is a conservation tragedy, constraining area-based planning processes and environmental impact assessments.

The Migratory Connectivity in the Ocean System (MiCO) represents a step-change: a move from aggregating raw data of little use to managers with little time and analytical capacity, to aggregating data in a useable format. This novel approach has contributed to the work of Regional Seas Organisations, the FAO and UNEP, negotiations over a new High Seas treaty, and was recently recognised by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

SafetyNet Technologies

Approximately one out of every five fish caught is the wrong fish, leading to over 27 million tons of fish wasted every year globally. This is a huge environmental, economic and ecological cost. SafetyNet Technologies uses light emitting devices to help fishermen catch the right fish, lowering bycatch by up to 90 per cent and improving fishing revenues by 25 per cent. This supports fishermen and helps protect an essential food source both now and in the future.

For ten years, SafetyNet Technologies has been building and carrying out the research and development (R&D) to perfect their technology. In 2019, they started commercialising the ‘Pisces’ light, their newest product. Pisces is attached onto the fishing gear and the correct colour and flash rate is selected to capture target species or deter bycatch species. It activates when it comes into contact with water and can be charged via a wireless charger. The units are sealed so they can withstand seawater and harsh conditions. Trials have already shown significant outcomes, where the use of certain wavelengths of white light on fishing nets can deter sea turtles.


PROTIX is a leading insect ingredient company, sourcing a broad range of products from the Black Soldier Fly. For every kilogram of farmed fish, farmers use more than a kilogram of wild-caught fish to feed them. Due to their high protein value, insects can easily replace the proteins in fish feed, reducing the pressure on marine resources. PROTIX's circular approach uses low-grade fruit and vegetable food waste that is consumed by the insects, which are then used as a high-quality nutrition source in different types of feed for animals, mimicking the natural circular food chain. PROTIX can be used for key commercial species such as salmon, trout and shrimp. Alongside omega 3-fatty acids, protein is essential for aquaculture.

X Shore

Since 2012, X Shore have been designing and building the ‘Tesla of the ocean’. Battery powered, fume-free and silent, X Shore are aiming to tackle marine noise pollution and the use of fossil fuels within the boating industry without compromising design and performance. Unlike electric cars, boats must have enough power to move through water, which is 784 times denser than air. As such, the boats are specifically built for efficiency and speed, powered by water cooled lithium ion batteries.

Dr Melissa Garren – Pelagic Data Systems

Pelagic Data Systems (PDS) was founded in 2014 and is a data analytics company that has set a new global standard for vessel tracking systems (VTS). They have designed the ‘Ultra-light System’, a rugged tracking system that is solar-powered and serves fishing fleets and vessels of any size. The system provides key functionality, such as fleet tracking, activity monitoring and data analysis, without requiring any specialised knowledge from the crew. Unlike other systems, it requires neither vessel power nor any action by fishermen and can be installed by anyone with a screwdriver. The hardware then self-activates and connects to the PDS network, uploading data world-wide automatically. Add-on sensors such as temperature loggers and gear immersion sensors can also be linked with the system. PDS focuses on boosting compliance, improving fisheries management and providing supply chain insight. It won the Seafood Champion Award in 2018 for its creation of the Ultra-light System.

The Visionary Award finalists

This award recognises an individual that have taken the lead on globally-significant actions, such as policy initiatives, for the benefit of ocean health, over an extended period of time. The winner of this award will have shown consistent leadership and vision on ocean issues, going above and beyond others in their commitment to protecting marine life.

Criteria: Nominees for this award must have a demonstrable track record of leadership on marine issues. They must either have initiated or taken a lead this year in influencing a globally-significant effort for the benefit of the ocean or seen a significant milestone in a previously initiated effort.

The finalists are:

  • Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Ocean Collectiv
  • Tiago Pitta e Cunha, Oceano Azul Foundation
  • Andrew Sharpless, Oceana

Dr Ayana Elizabeth JohnsonOcean Collectiv

Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist and policy expert from Brooklyn and the founder/CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice. She is also the founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think-tank for the future of coastal cities, as well as the Blue Halo Initiative. This initiative led the Caribbean’s first successful island-wide ocean zoning effort.

In addition to this, she has worked for NOAA and as the Executive Director of the Waitt Foundation. She is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University and on the board of directors for the Billion Oyster Project, among others. She is passionate about advocating for coastal communities and building solutions for ocean justice and our climate crisis.

Dr Johnson is particularly interested in the social impacts of climate change and representing women in science. In 2016, she featured in an article called Navigating Ocean Conservation as a Woman of Colour, which discussed the gender and racial barriers found in the science and conservation industry. In 2019, she was named as one of the 27 Women Leading the Charge to Protect Our Environment by Elle and the “most influential marine biologist of our time” by the Outside Online.

Tiago Pitta e Cunha, Oceano Azul Foundation

Tiago is the CEO of the Oceano Azul Foundation and has worked on ocean policies for over two decades with the United Nations, the Government of Portugal, the European Commissions and as an independent consultant. During 2019, Tiago was the personal champion of ‘Rise Up: A Blue Call to Action’. This project aims to ensure that the next UN Ocean Conference, which is scheduled for June 2020 (UN SDG14 Ocean Conference, Lisbon), is bold and ambitious. He has brought together a diverse group of donors and NGOs as signatories (Bloomberg, WWF, High Seas Alliance, National Geographic, Oak Foundation, Ocean Unite, Oceana, Waitt, RARE etc.)

Andrew SharplessOceana

Andrew Sharpless has led Oceana since 2003. In that time, Oceana has grown to be the largest international conservation organization fully dedicated to protecting the oceans. Under his leadership, Oceana has protected more than 4.5 million square miles of habitat and won more than 225 significant policy victories that will protect and restore the world’s oceans.

With campaigns underway in Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the European Union, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Oceana is fighting for policies that will restore oceans to abundance in countries responsible for about one third of the wild fish caught each year.

Andrew also led Oceana through the development and launch of Global Fishing Watch, an online platform that offers the first free global view of commercial fishing, in partnership with SkyTruth and Google. In 2013, Andrew also published a book entitled The Perfect Protein, which discusses sustainable seafood and why we must conserve and manage the world’s wild fish stocks.

The Public Awareness Award finalists

This award recognises the individual or group that has done the most this year to advance marine conservation objectives, including public literacy about marine conservation issues, be it through campaigning and advocacy, the mainstream media, art forms, or educational programmes.

Criteria: Nominees for this award must have this year initiated or significantly advanced activities with a demonstrable impact on ocean management or the public understanding or public visibility of an important ocean issue (or issues).

The finalists are:

  • Madison Stewart, Project Hiu
  • Pierre Casiraghi, Team Malizia
  • Nekton, First Descent
  • Balu Blue Foundation, Australia’s Great Southern Reef

Madison Stewart, Project Hiu

Madison Stewart is a 26-year-old underwater filmmaker, divemaster and shark conservationist who has been raising awareness since a she was a teenager. She engages with fishermen who specifically target sharks for sport, as well as the broader shark fishing industry, using photography and film to promote shark conservation. Her content is typically graphic, emotive and provoking, attracting an Instagram following of over 163,000 people. In 2017, she was recognised as the 2017 Young Conservationist of the Year by Australian Geographic and featured in Blue the film (2017).

In 2018, Madison launched Project Hiu in Lombok, Indonesia, an initiative that provides shark fishermen with an alternative income through ecotourism. The project targets one of the largest shark fisheries in Indonesia, where fishermen are hired as guides to take tourists surfing, sight-seeing and/or snorkelling. This reduces fishing pressure on sharks while also keeping local people employed. The project addresses all aspects of the fishing village community including families, the school and their waste management strategies. The project aims to raise awareness about the shark fin industry while encouraging compassion from fishermen and the public alike.

Pierre Casiraghi, Team Malizia

The Malizia is an ocean yacht ‘at the service of science and education’. It was founded in 2016 by Pierre Casiraghi, Vice-President of the Yacht Club de Monaco, and is skippered by Boris Herrmann. Herrmann has broken world records including for the Transpac, the Cape-Rio, the Columbus Route and many others. He sails solo on the Malizia and has completed a non-stop lap around the world. The team have dedicated the vessel to delivering scientific research and marine conservation education. They have met over 10,000 children and distributed over 10,000 copies of their educational kit. The vessel is equipped with an onboard sensor, measuring CO2, temperature, salinity and pressure, helping scientists to understanding the impact of climate change within our oceans, particularly in the less travelled Southern Ocean.

Nekton, First Descent

Nekton’s mission is to accelerate the exploration and protection of the ocean. ‘First Descent’ is a series of missions across the Indian Ocean (2019-2022), which is the least researched, least protected and most at-risk ocean on the planet. Beginning in Seychelles in 2019, the Mission concludes with a State of the Indian Ocean summit in October 2022. The aim is to galvanise 30 per cent protection of the Indian Ocean by 2030. ‘Expedition II: Maldives’ will happen in 2020.

Balu Blue Foundation, Australia’s Great Southern Reef

Australia’s Great Southern Reef (GSR) is an ecologically vital, yet relatively unknown, temperate reef system spanning half the country. It fringes from Kalbarri on the north-western coast, down and around the rugged southern coast and up into northern New South Wales. This interconnected network acts as a home to thousands of marine species, including the giant cuttlefish, the leafy seadragon and Australian sea lions. It features 8,000 kilometres of kelp forest reefs and is a biodiversity hot spot that is essential to Australia’s natural capital and coastal heritage. On 5 December 2019, Sahira Bell’s current research project came to fruition as the GSR was acknowledged as Mission Blue’s latest ‘Hope Spot’. People protect what they love, and love what they understand; meaning acknowledgment like this is what’s vital in uniting the community to forge ahead and do everything possible to protect places like the GSR. The GSR is currently under extreme threat from climate change and oil drilling.

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