The winners of the Ocean Awards 2019

The winners of the Ocean Awards 2019

Now in its fourth year, BOAT International and Blue Marine Foundation’s Ocean Awards is bigger than ever in scope, breadth and ambition. 2019 saw a fantastic number of nominations from all over the world. The judges had quite a task on their hands to select the winners for each award from an exceptionally high calibre list of nominees. After a meticulous and lengthy judging period, the outstanding winners were pinpointed.

Use the links below to see the winner of each category.


Local Hero Award: Zoona Naseem

Co-founder and owner of Moodhu Bulhaa Dive Centre on Villingili Island, Maldives

This award recognises the individual or group that has had the most positive impact on the marine environment within their local community this year. The winner is typically a recognised leader on marine conservation issues within their community or organisation.

When Zoona Naseem became a PADI course director in 2018, no Maldivian woman had ever qualified to train diving instructors as well as beginners. As president of the Dive Association of the Maldives and co-founder of the Moodhu Bulhaa Dive Centre, she was also the first woman in the Maldives to qualify as a PADI instructor.

She became a tireless campaigner both for ocean conservation and for Maldivian women to learn to dive, to better understand what is at stake and to pass on that knowledge to their children.

Over her career, Naseem, who has logged more than 12,000 dives, has enabled in excess of 11,000 people to dive, 400 of them Maldivian women. She talks with enthusiasm of “the dozens of sharks, huge schools of eagle rays and abundant fish life” it is possible to see in these waters.

She was also one of the key person who piloted a government scheme named Farukoe ( “reef child”) that will ensure every Maldivian child gets to experience a coral reef if only by going snorkelling. This should, in turn, encourage a generation to grow up aware of the importance to the Maldives of protecting and maintaining a thriving marine ecosystem.

Not surprisingly she has become a marine ambassador and an advocate for the environment, which she says is “a privilege”. And last year she received the Maldivian president’s National Award of Recognition in the area of Diving (Recreational Scuba Diving).

The Science Award: David Kroodsma

Director of research, Global Fishing Watch

This award recognises the individual or research team that has made the most important scientific contribution to the ocean this year.

Global Fishing Watch is an independent international NGO originally set up by international ocean conservation organisation Oceana, satellite technology company SkyTruth and Google. Its mission is to advance the stewardship and sustainability of the oceans by monitoring global commercial fishing activity. Its director of research, David Kroodsma, crunches the data it collects to shed light on just how much fishing goes on in the world – and how that damages the oceans.

As lead author of Tracking the global footprint of fisheries, a research project to ascertain the global reach of industrial fishing, he and his colleagues tracked more than 70,000 large industrial fishing vessels between 2012 and 2016, processing 22 billion automatic identification system messages. In number, these boats may account for only a small fraction of the world’s fishing vessels, but they “are responsible for the majority of fishing efforts in the high seas”.

The results were sobering. There is industrial fishing in 55 per cent of the world’s oceans, which means intensive fishing has a spatial reach more than four times that of agriculture. In one year, he says, “The vessels we tracked traversed a combined distance equal to travelling to the Moon and back 600 times.”

It should be added that Global Fishing Watch’s findings were not uncontroversial. Scientists at the University of Washington have challenged the extent of the affected waters. But as Kroodsma says, “‘Area fished’ is a poorly defined term.” And in any case, debate is “healthy… We welcome collaboration.” Indeed, the exchange on the pages of Science magazine, The Atlantic, via Twitter and on his blog, “has helped raise awareness of different ways to measure, understand and communicate the extent of fishing”.

The Innovation Award

Highly Commended

This year, the judges recognised two outstanding entries for their potential to make a positive, long-term impact on the marine environment as opposed to using new, innovative technology. As such they have been given joint recognition in the form of Highly Commended.

Dr Anne Kapuscinski

Director, Coastal Science and Policy Program and professor, environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for aquaculture microalgae feed

Whether they are wild or farmed, carnivorous fish require other fish to feed on. But with aquaculture being the world’s fastest-growing food sector, the need for feed – sustainable sources of protein that do not adversely upset the food web of marine ecosystems – is becoming ever more pressing. As director of the Coastal Science and Policy Program and professor of environmental studies at UCSC, she and her team investigate the development of microalgae-based feeds that support fish growth and omega-3 content without damaging healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Silent Yachts

Silent 64

In January 2018, after almost 15 years’ research, Klagenfurt-based Silent Yachts delivered the Silent 64 a 19.4-metre solar-hybrid ocean-going catamaran, to its owner. It was a huge step towards developing a completely emission-free yacht, for even sailing yachts tend to rely to some extent on diesel or gasoline engines and onboard generators. The Silent 64 proves that eco-credentials are no barrier to luxury and stands to shake up the way superyachts are powered, much like electric cars are disrupting the automotive industry.

The Visionary Award: Lewis Pugh

The Long Swim

This award recognises the individual or group that has taken the lead on globally- significant actions for the benefit of ocean health. 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. This can include important policy initiatives and the people behind them.

In August 2018, the British environmental campaigner and former maritime lawyer Lewis Pugh, UN Patron of the Oceans since 2013, completed a 49-day, 527-kilometre swim along the English Channel from Land’s End to Dover. His mission was to mark the start of a global campaign to win protection for at least 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030, as well as to raise awareness of plastic pollution. But it was also to flag up the fact that of the 750,000 square kilometres of seas around the UK, only seven square kilometres are fully protected from exploitation. Pugh uses the publicity to draw attention to the declining health of the world’s oceans and to encourage nations to create marine protected areas.

The Channel swim presented exceptional challenges: jellyfish, storms, marine traffic (it is the busiest shipping lane in the world), proximity to nuclear power stations and pollution. But he insists it was worth it. The media coverage it commanded was extensive. And the government took notice: Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was on hand as Pugh emerged from the waves after the last leg, and in September he called for 30 per cent of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030, a target MP Thérèse Coffey called for at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later that month.

Public Awareness Award: The Ocean Race

Sustainability Programme

This award recognises the individual or group that has done the most this year to advance public understanding of marine conservation issues, be it through the mainstream media, art forms, in schools, or through campaigning.

Wise to the knowledge that the “world’s oceans are the lifeblood of The Ocean Race”, the organisers of the 2017-18 Volvo-sponsored contest, a triennial 45,000-nautical-mile round-the-world yacht race for boats with professional crews of between seven and 11, pledged to do everything they could “to inspire sailors, race fans around the world, partners, stakeholders, host cities and sponsors to join us in our quest for cleaner seas”.

Hence its sustainability programme. This strove to minimise the footprint of the teams (which were compelled to sign up to the United Nations’ #CleanSeas pledge) and their boats and sponsors, not to mention the 94,200 corporate guests they entertained at the dozen Race Villages, where single-use plastics were discouraged so obviating the use of almost 400,000 plastic bottles.

Great care was taken to source food and materials sustainably, to conserve water and energy and reduce waste. Vendors were compelled to serve food and drink in reusable washable, or at least compostable, serviceware. Efforts were also made to raise awareness of the dangers posed to the oceans by plastic among the 2.5 million people who came to watch the 2017-18 race as well as with the vast global digital audience who followed it, generating 1.9 billion social-media impressions.

The race itself was also used to advance global understanding of plastic pollution by, in effect, turning all seven participating boats into research vessels charged with gathering water samples and meteorological data from places not often accessible to scientists.

The driving force behind the programme is Anne-Cécile Turner, founder of the sustainability consultancy Blueshift, who has led the Ocean Race Sustainability Programme since 2016.

Judges’ Special Award: Alliance for the Conservation of Biodiversity, Culture and Territory

Joint winner - For the expansion of the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, and the designation of two new marine protected areas

Thanks to an innovative partnership of five institutions, 13.31 per cent of Colombia’s coastline and marine ecosystems are now protected.

Organised by Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia, the country’s national parks agency, the alliance included two global charities, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); and two corporate foundations, Grupo Argos and the Mario Santo Domingo Foundation. More than four million hectares now have government designation as marine protected areas (MPAs). The protected zones consist of two newly created MPAs and the massive expansion of an existing National Natural Park and UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

The latter, the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, has grown from 968,000 hectares to 2.68 million hectares and now forms the largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. This is the area that surrounds the 35-hectare island of Malpelo, which supports colonies of the critically endangered Galápagos petrel, Nazca and masked boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. But it is the rugged topography of the surrounding underwater wilderness, as well as the confluence of several oceanic currents, that truly make it a place of exceptional and diverse ecosystems, not to mention a rich feeding ground for pelagic species such as giant grouper, billfish and tuna, and for predators. Hence it has a reputation as a “reservoir” of sharks (and as one of the greatest dive sites in the world). Aggregations of more than 200 hammerheads and more than 1,000 silky sharks have been seen there, as well as whale sharks and the occasional sighting of short-nosed, ragged-toothed sharks, a rarely sighted deepwater species.

In addition to the expansion of Malpelo Sanctuary, two new MPAs have been created: the Yurupari-Malpelo Integrated Management National District, which covers almost 2.7 million hectares; and Cabo Manglares Bajo Mira y Frontera, which extends 190,282 hectares. These areas seek to make the conservation of biodiversity compatible with the traditional uses of local communities. Fishing in these waters will be closely monitored to ensure it is responsibly managed and sustainable, and the turtles that nest among the mangroves in the delta of the Mira Rover delta, which borders Ecuador, will be much safer.

Judges’ Special Award: Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program

Joint winner - For the Diego Ramirez-Drake Passage Marine Park

The far south of the American continent, south of Cape Horn, the remotest reaches of Chilean Patagonia, are home to several species of endangered bird. Among them are southern rockhopper and macaroni penguins; striated caracara, a kind of raptor; and grey-headed and black-browed albatrosses, both now critically endangered. They have suffered catastrophic declines in their population owing to the climate change-driven decline in stocks of the squid on which they feed and fishing gear in which they become caught.

The creation in January 2018 of the Diego Ramirez-Drake Passage Marine Park, however, should help ensure their survival. The 25th marine protected area in Chile, the seventh in Patagonia and the largest such park in South America, it extends over 144,390 square kilometres and a stretch of ocean with a rich biodiversity of its own. In terms of flora, it is the location of important forests of microalgae and kelp, as well as sea sponges and fossilised coral, but it also contains two significant undersea phenomena: the Sars seamount, which rises nearly 4,000 metres from the seabed almost to the surface of the water, making it among the largest underwater mountains in the South Pacific, and a submerged continental escarpment that drops dramatically into the Drake Passage, itself an important migration route for marine mammals such as humpback whales, dolphins and sea lions.

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