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The winners of the Ocean Awards 2019

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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.

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Local Hero Award: Zoona Naseem

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

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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).

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The Science Award: David Kroodsma

Director of research, Global Fishing Watch

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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”.

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