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12 winners of The Ocean Awards

12 winners of The Ocean Awards

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Winner — UK supplier of the year: Kernowsashimi

For — its commitment to sustainable fishing methods and fish masterclasses

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The Ocean Awards winner Kernowsashimi

Photo of Kernowsashimi founder Chris Bean by Harry Cory Wright

_The award for best UK Supplier of the Year at The Ocean Awards was open to any British suppliers who could meet the criteria of being a seafood supplier that has shown the most consistent, well-communicated and far-reaching commitment to sustainable sourcing. The winner was Kernowsashimi. _

Cornish fisherman Chris Bean was 11 when he built his first boat and decided to go to sea. The son of a cabinetmaker (who helped him draw up the plans), he used to sail it up the Helford River, catching bass and bream. He soon realised there was money to be made from selling his catch to a local fishmonger – “more than from picking potatoes or turnips on a local farm,” he says – and throughout his adolescence this was how he earned his pocket money.

He then made a career out of it and, more than 40 years on, he is not only still fishing but runs Kernowsashimi, a family business that supplies quality, sustainable fish: familiar species such as haddock, mackerel, whiting, red mullet and crab along with less familiar kinds such as lesser-spotted dogfish, wrasse and gurnard (of the four types, he says, “streaked, which are wider on the shoulders and have soft fins, are the most delicious”), dab and pouting. “You can find a market for anything,” he says. “It’s all protein. And everything has a value.”

The idea came from his Japanese daughter-in-law, Mutsuko. “She was the prime mover,” he says, and Mutsuko remains integral to the business, as do his son and daughter. “She said people would pay extra money for fish of the quality we were catching if we sold it into a niche market. My mother said to me if you take fish from the sea and put it on your plate, then you eat it; you don’t waste it. It’s silly to throw things back that might have a market value. So whatever we catch now, we use.

We don’t put anything back except for protected species, which we’re legally bound to throw back. About 70 or 80 per cent of the fish comes aboard the boat live so it survives.” He also takes care to use “static gear so we’re not disrupting the substrate or environment”, and large meshes, so they catch only mature fish that have had time to breed.

Among the restaurants Kernowsashimi supplies are several in London, notably the two Michelin-star Japanese restaurant Umu in Mayfair, Moshi Moshi, and Riverford at the Duke of Cambridge, in Islington, Britain’s first and only organic pub.

Bean has teamed up with the Riverford Field Kitchen and, from January 2015, has been holding a fish masterclass every Friday, to teach people how to cook the fish he caught that day – particularly the less popular species – and to educate them in the ways of sustainable fishing.

Highly commended — Catchbox

For – its work, as a not-for-profit co-operative or “community supported fishery” run by unpaid volunteers, with small fishermen who use responsible methods to supply individual consumers on England’s South Coast with weekly boxes of fresh, local, responsibly sourced fish. “This is a scheme that cuts out the middle man and puts you, the fish eater, directly in touch with the fishermen in your local harbour,” says The Oceans Award judge Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Highly commended — Direct Seafoods

For – sourcing fresh fish responsibly and promoting the most sustainable products available. This wholesale seafood and fish supplier also provides comprehensive information on its website relating to the sustainability of fish species.

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Winner —Projects: The Scottish White Fish Producers Association

For — its work to save North Sea cod

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The Ocean Awards winner The Scottish White Fish Producers Association

Photo of Scottish White Fish Producers Association CEO Mike Park by Harry Cory Wright

_The Ocean Awards' Projects award sought out the ocean project that has achieved the most in the past year. The winner was the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, which has had a direct impact on the increase of North Sea cod recorded in the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea's stock assessment in 2015. _

“I was at Rockall Bank as a 10 year old with the old line boats,” remembers Mike Park, whose career began as a fisherman but is now chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, which represents 170 individual vessels and 1,400 fishers with a collective turnover approaching €200 million. “How my father allowed it, I’m not sure, but I used to go out on boats at weekends and all through the summer holidays. After I left school I became a fisherman, and by 21 I had my first 25 metre trawler and a crew of eight. I was the youngest by 14 years and was expected to deliver by putting money in their pockets.”

But fishers know that their livelihood depends on there being fish in the sea. “Remember, ours is a brutal industry,” he continues. “You’re self-employed and you can only make money by being smarter, more ruthless and harder working than the next guy. Our industry is full of alpha males. It’s Darwinian. It’s survival of the fittest. Fishermen don’t necessarily want to be rich but they want to be richer than the guy next to them.”

Park therefore takes a pragmatic view of ocean conservation. “The Greens talk about a good environment being built on green credentials. I’ll deliver you the same built on business principles because the two come to the same point.”

Since 2010, the Scottish White Fish Producers Association has been remotely monitoring the discarding of cod by means of an onboard electronic system installed on fishing boats. The catch-quota scheme is still under trial and has fed into the recent reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, but fishers’ willingness to sign up to catch quotas indicates that they are open to pursuing new ways of operating. “If you can remove financial pressures, you remove archaic behaviour. That’s the essence of it,” says Park.

The Scottish White Fish Producers Association has also introduced a series of annual, seasonal closures to protect spawning aggregations at various times of the year and has worked to improve nets, promoting the use of those that reduce the capture of cod by 60 per cent. That the Marine Conservation Society removed cod from its list of “fish to avoid” last October is in part thanks to this.

Highly commended — Dr Jon Copley

Associate professor of marine ecology at the University of Southampton For – launching Exploring Our Oceans, a free six-week interactive online introduction to marine science, the only one of its kind, that has already been taken up by more than 10,000 students from all over the world.

Highly commended — Boyan Slat, CEO of The Ocean Cleanup

For – his design of a system involving floating barriers to capture plastic debris that has now raised almost $2.2 million towards funding the pilot phase. He hopes the first 2,000 metre system of barriers will be deployed in the Pacific in 2016.

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Winner — Policy: John D Podesta, former counsellor to US President Barack Obama

For — his part in leading the US National Ocean Policy

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The Ocean Awards winner John D Podesta

Photo of John D Podesta by Allesandro D'Andrea

_The Policy award has been given to the political or corporate policy that has made the most valuable contribution to solving the global oceans crisis. The Ocean Awards winner John D Podesta had an instrumental role in US National Ocean Policy, which included the campaign to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Maritime Monument. _

White House Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton during his presidency and Counsellor to the President under Barack Obama until February 2015, John D Podesta is now chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The author of several books, among them The Power of Progress: How America’s Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate and Our Country, he was also instrumental in encouraging President Obama to expand the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument to form one of the largest marine protection areas in the world, ensuring it becomes off-limits to commercial fishing and other resource extraction activities, such as deep-water mining.

Other actions listed under the National Ocean Policy plan include the formation and implementation of more Marine Protected Areas, combating black-market fishing, regional marine planning, understanding the impacts of ocean acidification, building resilience in coastal communities and bolstering domestic shellfish aquaculture, all of which should contribute substantially to healthier oceans in which marine species and habitats can thrive.

A long-standing champion of responsible stewardship of the seas, he is also a former member of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, formed after the release of two high-profile reports on US ocean policy in 2003 and 2004, and the Global Ocean Commission, which he has described as “one of the most dynamic initiatives developing common-sense ways to manage fully 45 per cent of the globe that remains common property, outside any national jurisdiction”.

Highly commended — David Cameron, MP for Witney, West Oxfordshire, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2010

For – the clause in his party’s manifesto, published before the 2015 general election, that included a promise to protect precious marine habitats by creating a Blue Belt of marine reserves around all 14 of the UK’s Overseas Territories and completing the network of Marine Conservation Zones that surround the British coastline.

Highly commended — Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment in the Scottish Government

For – putting before the Scottish Parliament a Marine Conservation Order for measures that would ban the highly destructive practice of scallop dredging off the coast of Wester Ross, within the South Arran MPA.

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