The Public Awareness Award, awarded as part of the annual Ocean Awards, is handed to an individual or group that has advanced marine conservation objectives by increasing public visibility on a topic that informs our understanding of our oceans, be it through advocacy, mainstream media, art forms, or educational programmes.
Shark with Steve Backshall
World-renowned shark expert, conservationist, explorer and BAFTA recipient Steve Backshall has fronted a new natural history series on Sky named Shark with Steve Backshall. The four-part series uncovers the secret world of sharks, shines a light on the role sharks play in maintaining the health of our oceans, and attempts to dispel the species' reputation as cold-blooded killers. The series was a resounding success as Sky Nature’s biggest show to date with at least 2.43 million people tuning in.
Steve says Steven Spielberg’s classic 1975 film, Jaws, is just one reason that sharks have gained a reputation for being fearsome, man-eating predators. Backshall’s documentary aims to dispel this myth by showing endearing footage of baby lemon sharks in the Bahamas and celebrating the overall wonders of these incredible animals.
At the same time, the documentary confronts uncomfortable truths around declining shark populations as a result of overfishing, pollution, finning and habitat destruction. Steve hopes that by informing the viewer about the diverse and unique characteristics of these creatures, it will encourage people to try and save sharks from extinction.
Netflix Original documentary Seaspiracy is a ground-breaking film that exposes the environmental impact of commercial fishing. The film garnered mass attention from around the globe and found itself at the centre of conversations on the subjects of overfishing and the current state of the ocean. Seaspiracy was produced as a follow up to the award-winning documentary Cowspiracy, which places industrial farming practices under a microscope. In a similar fashion, Seaspiracy examines human impacts on marine life and ultimately advocates for ending the consumption of fish. The film premiered on Netflix globally in March 2021 and was one of the top ten most watched films on Netflix.
Featured topics included plastic marine debris, ghost nets and overfishing around the world. It argues that commercial fisheries are the main driver of marine ecosystem destruction and rejects the concept of sustainable seafood certifications of the Marine Stewardship Council and criticises efforts by organisations to reduce household plastic, given the impact of ghost nets.
Sarah Cunliffe – Help Our Kelp campaign and film
Kelp once stretched along 40 kilometres of the West Sussex coastline, providing vital habitat, nursery and feeding grounds for many marine species and locking up huge quantities of carbon. Since 1987 however, over 96 per cent of Sussex’s kelp had been destroyed due to years of destructive trawling and other human pressures. Sarah Cunliffe created the film, Help Our Kelp, which told the story of the depleted underwater forest.
The Help Our Kelp film was created alongside the campaign and aimed to raise awareness of the disappearing forest and rally support for a bylaw prohibiting trawling of over 300 square kilometres of seabed in 2019. The film not only received millions of views worldwide but was pivotal in forming the #HelpOurKelp group in September 2019 who helped to generate more than 2500 letters of support for the Sussex IFCA consultation, calling for a ban on inshore trawling to 4km along the Sussex coast. In March 2021 the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw was approved creating one of the largest inshore areas closed to trawling in England and the first kelp restoration project in the UK.
The Ocean Awards is held in partnership with Blue Marine Foundation. View all of this year's Ocean Awards finalists here.Read More/Meet the 2022 Ocean Awards finalists: The Local Hero AwardRead More/Meet the 2022 Ocean Awards finalists: The Innovation AwardRead More/Meet the 2022 Ocean Award finalists: The Science Award