12 winners of The Ocean Awards

Winner — UK Retailer: Marks & Spencer

For — its Forever Fish campaign, part of Plan A 2020

Photo of Marks & Spencer director of food technology Paul Willgoss by Ben Harries

The Ocean Awards' UK retailer award is given to the retailer that has done the most through corporate policy and/or public engagement to address ocean issues in the past year. Marks & Spencer won for its Forever Fish campaign, part of Plan A 2020.

“We’ve had a responsible fishing policy for the past 15 years and we’ve taken that even further with our Forever Fish campaign,” says Paul Willgoss, director of food technology at the British multinational retailer. In 2007 it launched a project called Plan A (“because there is no plan B”), subsequently relaunched as Plan A 2020, setting out a 100-point plan of environmental and ethical goals. For example, it started charging for plastic carrier bags in 2008, a full seven years before the Government introduced a compulsory charge

last October. What profits are generated from the sale of its carrier bags – the aim of the initiative is to discourage their use – are donated to the World Wildlife Fund, the Marine Conservation Society and an education programme to protect the marine environment.

Among its ethical policies is the Forever Fish campaign, which has three principal objectives: “to help to protect and save our precious sea life, oceans and beaches for future generations to enjoy; to encourage eating of lesser-known and British fish species, without compromising on quality; and to involve volunteers in cleaning our beaches and teaching their children about fish.”

To this end it organises a twice-yearly beach clean-up, encouraging volunteers to record data on the types and amounts of litter. In June 2014 the clean-up involved 8,000 volunteers clearing more than 25 tonnes of rubbish from 135 beaches and canals across the UK. The next year an even more impressive 40 tonnes of detritus was removed from 90 beaches and 42 waterways by 6,000 volunteers. Subsequent analysis revealed a 50 per cent increase year-on-year in the number of discarded wet wipes found on beaches.

In addition, M&S funds four initiatives through this campaign: the WWF Rumaki programme, which challenges unsustainable fishing practices in East Africa; a WWF project in Fiji to conserve turtles on the Great Sea Reef; the WWF’s PISCES project (PISCES stands for Partnerships Involving Stakeholders in the Celtic Sea Ecosystem); and a low-impact brown crab fishery in Orkney.

Highly commended — Sainsbury’s

For – celebrating its fourth Switch the Fish Day by giving away five tonnes of less popular types of fish in the hope that, on trying them, customers might be inspired to buy species other than the perennial bestsellers: cod, salmon, haddock, tuna and prawns. This is all part of its 20x20 Sustainability Plan, which aims to have all the fish it sells independently certified as sustainable by 2020.

Highly commended — Waitrose

For – its continued efforts, over more than 15 years, to source its seafood responsibly, using only suppliers with fisheries or farmed aquaculture operations that are responsibly managed. By 2017, it pledges, all the fish it sells will be independently certified as responsibly sourced, to assure customers that what they are buying is not at risk as a species.

Winner- Judges' Award: Greenpeace UK Oceans Team

For – its outstanding contribution to campaigns

Photo of oceans campaigner Willie Mackenzie by Ben Harries

_The Judges' Award is for a campaigning group, company or individual, outside _of the previous categories, whom the judges wish to recognise for their outstanding overall efforts in marine conservation throughout the year. Greenpeace UK Oceans Team is a winner at The Ocean Awards thanks to its outstanding contribution to campaigns to save important marine habitats, protect endangered species, create marine reserves and push for important governance reforms in fisheries.

At home and overseas, Greenpeace UK’s oceans team has successfully campaigned on a number of key issues over the past year. In Australia, it deterred investors from funding a mega-mine that threatened to cause devastation to part of the Great Barrier Reef. In the Pacific, the campaign to save the vaquita, the world’s most endangered cetacean, helped mobilise international pressure to implement a ban on the use of gillnets. And through a combination of political lobbying, legal challenges and investigative work, “we’ve been able to give a big voice to small-scale fishers”, says Willie Mackenzie, Greenpeace UK’s longstanding oceans campaigner, not least in securing far-reaching reform of Europe’s fisheries laws that will benefit both marine ecosystems and the coastal communities that depend on them for their livelihoods.

Mackenzie is quick to acknowledge, however, that Greenpeace’s successes depend on collaborations and coalitions he and his fellow campaigners forge with other NGOs and marine organisations, and campaigns such as Selfridges’ Project Ocean, the BBC’s Big Blue Live and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Hugh’s Fish Fight.

As to the difference Greenpeace UK is making globally, he points to its efforts to clean up the tuna industry. “We have a lot of different abilities,” Mackenzie says, “intervening at all stages of the supply chain. For example, we can be under cover on the boats, tackling overfishing; and under cover in processing plants. We can be in the market place looking at what’s on supermarket shelves, holding retailers and brands to account. We’ve got all the big UK supermarket chains sourcing their tuna sustainably now.

“It’s a matter of getting the people providing the fish to do the right thing. I think we’ve really turned the corner on that in the UK. There was a time when they didn’t seem to understand that frozen fish and canned fish were also fish. But now the major supermarkets are falling over themselves to be seen as being as good as possible. Even companies like Tesco, which has had a lot of bad press, are way ahead [compared with a lot of their international peers]”.

He also points to Greenpeace UK’s work in the Arctic: the signing of an international agreement to prevent unregulated fishing that was signed in Oslo in July 2015, an important step towards securing the region’s status as a marine sanctuary; and Shell’s decision to abandon its exploration and drilling operations in the Chukchi Sea. As Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said at the time: “Big oil has sustained an unmitigated defeat. They had a budget of billions, we had a movement of millions. For three years we faced them down, and the people won.”