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12 winners of The Ocean Awards

10 of 12 10/12
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The Ocean Awards winner Oliver Letwin
10

Winner — Visionary: Oliver Letwin

For — committing the British Government to the creation of an MPA around Pitcairn

Photo of Oliver Letwin by Ben Harries

_Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has won the Visionary award because the judges felt he was the politician or thinker who had achieved the most for ocean conservation in the last year. It's his work to commit the British Government to the creation of a Marine Protection Area around Pitcairn, and to the creation of “Blue Belts” around the 14 UK Overseas Territories, that makes him a winner at The Ocean Awards. _

On 10 September 2014, Zac Goldsmith MP, Stanley Johnson, the RSPB, Blue Marine Foundation and Pew Trusts presented Parliament with a pamphlet calling on the Government to commit to creating Marine Protected Areas around three of its Overseas Territories: Pitcairn, Ascension, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Outstanding among the politicians who supported the move and led the push towards the creation of a new MPA around Pitcairn in the southern Pacific was the Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP, the Conservative member for West Dorset and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. This led to its inclusion of a commitment to create a “Blue Belt around the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories, subject to local support and environmental need [and] designate a further protected area at Ascension Island, subject to the views of the local community. [While] off our own coasts we will complete the network of Marine Conservation Zones that we have already started, to create a UK Blue Belt of protected sites.” This formed part of the Conservative Party manifesto, published before the May 2015 general election.

When fully implemented, the Pitcairn MPA will be the largest in the world. The waters around the Pitcairn Islands are home to some of the best-preserved marine ecosystems on the planet and are of globally significant biological value. More than 1,200 marine species have been recorded around the islands, including whales, dolphins, fish, turtles, seabirds and corals. Of these species, 48 are globally threatened, including the hawksbill turtle and the Pitcairn angelfish, which is found almost nowhere else.

Highly commended — Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston

For — his campaign, going back to when he was elected in 2010, for Pitcairn to become a Marine Protected Area.

Highly commended — Dr Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer and founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and **Research, SEAlliance and Mission Blue**

For — her efforts to increase the proportion of protected water from less than 3 per cent today to 20 per cent by 2020.

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