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Meet the judges of the Ocean Awards 2024

8 March 2024 • Written by Lucy Dunn

Now in its ninth year, Ocean Awards recognise those that are committed to solving the ocean crisis. It is held in partnership with Blue Marine Foundation, one of the UK’s leading ocean conservation charities. The results will be announced in the June 2024 issue of BOAT International.

The judges

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: writer, broadcaster and campaigner

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a multi-award-winning writer and broadcaster known for his uncompromising commitment to seasonal, ethically produced food and his concern for the environment. He has earned a huge following through his River Cottage TV series and books, as well as campaigns such as Hugh’s Fish Fight, Hugh’s War on Waste, Britain’s Fat Fight and, his latest, War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita. Hugh established River Cottage HQ in Dorset in 2004, and the operation is now based at Park Farm near Axminster in Devon.

Hugh’s broadcasting has earned him a BAFTA as well as awards from Radio 4, The Observer and the Guild of Food Writers. Besides more than 20 cookery-based series, Hugh’s TV work includes hard-hitting campaigns such as the highly influential Fish Fight, which brought about changes in fisheries law at the European level.

What concerns you the most about our ocean crisis?

The lack of urgency on the part of governments worldwide. Ocean health is fundamental to the health of the planet and, therefore, the future of mankind.

What single, practical act would you ask the public to take to help protect our oceans?

Simply to hold the oceans in your thoughts. Visit them, marvel at them, swim in them. The actions you can take to support and protect them will flow from that.

What measures have you taken to help protect the oceans?

I hope I am still doing what I recommend for others above: holding the oceans in my thoughts. Aside from that, I have tried to champion a number of ocean causes and projects, including promoting more sustainable seafood and campaigning for more meaningful marine reserves around the UK.

Professor Martin Attrill: marine ecologist

Martin Attrill

Professor Martin Attrill is a marine ecologist whose primary research interest is focused on the mechanisms behind long-term change and large-scale spatial patterns in marine assemblages and populations. He has published over 160 papers in the prime literature, primarily on fish and seabed systems such as seagrass, but over the past 15 years has been mainly involved in projects investigating the roles of MPAs and their interaction with fishing, in particular within Lyme Bay with Blue Marine Foundation and other partners. From 2009-2018, Professor Attrill was director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth and, in 2018, designed and set up its MSc in Marine Conservation. He is also the chief scientific advisor for the Ocean Conservation Trust and trustee of the Manta Trust.

Aino-Leena Grapin: CEO, Winch Design

Aino Grapin

Winch Design is a multi-disciplinary design studio that creates visionary projects around the world on land, in the air and at sea. Aino joined Winch Design in 2016 as CEO – sitting on the Operating Board, she leads the company and ensures Winch Design is as strong commercially as it is creatively. In 2021, Aino led the company through a new phase to become employee-owned.

Winch Design has been a supporter of Blue Marine Foundation since its inception and jointly launched the London to Monaco bike ride in 2016 in celebration of Winch Design’s 30th anniversary and has been a proud annual partner since. Aino is a key campaigner within the industry to drive sustainability: she sits on the Sustainable Yacht Design Task Force for Water Revolution Foundation, which shares innovative and verified solutions to reduce the industry’s footprint.

Aino spearheaded Winch Design’s accreditation to the Plant Mark, now in its seventh year, with the commitment to reduce the company’s carbon emissions by a minimum of 5 per cent year on year.

Frederikke Magnussen: co-founder, A Plastic Planet

Frederikke Magnussen

Frederikke Magnussen is co-founder of A Plastic Planet, which aims to inspire the world to “turn off the plastic tap”. The social impact movement, founded in 2017 with Sian Sutherland, aims to represent the public’s right to a plastic-free choice by working collaboratively with retailers, governments and the United Nations. As part of their work, they have created two Plastic Free Marks: The Plastic Free Trust Mark, for products and packaging; and the Commitment Mark for business, demonstrating their intention to reduce plastic. Aside from her work with A Plastic Planet, Magnussen and her husband have also set up Ocean Family Foundation (OFF).
What concerns you the most about our ocean crisis?

Humans are the biggest danger to the oceans. 80 per cent of ocean pollution comes from land-based activities like plastic, trash and pollution from agriculture.

What single, practical act would you ask the public to take to help protect our oceans?

The public is already doing amazing initiatives. I would like to see big businesses and industries take more responsibility and actions to protect and stop the destruction of the ocean's health.

Callum Roberts: professor at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation

Professor Callum Roberts

Callum Roberts, previously a professor of marine conservation at the University of York recently moved to the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter's Cornwall campus in July 2020. His past research focuses on threats to marine ecosystems and species, and on finding the means to protect them. His team provided the scientific underpinning for a new ocean protection target – 30 per cent by 2030 – which is gaining widespread international support.

His latest book, Reef Life: An Underwater Memoir, is on the past and future of coral reefs, the world’s richest marine ecosystem. He was chief scientific advisor for the BBC’s Blue Planet II and is chief scientific advisor to Blue Marine Foundation, as well as an ambassador for WWF UK.

What concerns you the most about our ocean crisis?

We are reacting late to problems that have developed in the sea over the past 200 years because life below the waves is out of sight most of the time and therefore easy to ignore. That means we have to expand the scale and intensity of ocean conservation and restoration very fast now to catch up.

What measures have you taken to help protect the oceans?

As a scientist, I study the impacts that people have on marine life, both in the past and present, and test methods to recover and rebuild losses and damage. One of the most powerful means at our disposal for breathing life back into degraded seas is to protect areas fully from extractive and damaging activities like fishing and dumping. We need to greatly expand the coverage of these protected areas, reaching at least 30 per cent of the sea by 2030, to halt biodiversity loss and slow the rate of climate change.

What single, practical act would you ask the public to take to help protect our oceans?

Write to your elected representatives asking them to support greater ocean protection. If they know that it matters to you, they are much more likely to act.

Yvonne Sadovy: professor at the University of Hong Kong

Professor Yvonne Sadovy
Eric Clua

Yvonne Sadovy, 30 years a professor at the University of Hong Kong, focuses on threats to marine species, especially those from intensive exploitation and trade. She has extensive media coverage including in BBC's Blue Planet series I and II. In addition to research in tropical reef ecosystems globally, she has co-authored technical and popular books on marine fishes and conservation, the most recent being The Fishes of China and Adjacent Waters. She is currently a Marine Advisor to Swires in Hong Kong and chair of the IUCN Groupers & Wrasses Specialist Group.

What concerns you the most about our ocean crisis?

We are doing too little, at too small a spatial and temporal scale. We need to understand that our seas have natural limits and that by knowing and respecting these we not only conserve marine ecosystems but can benefit more from them ourselves.

What single, practical act would you ask the public to take to help protect our oceans?

Eat sustainably produced seafood and communicate to others (as teachers, journalists, friends, artists, parents, politicians, etc.) why this is so important.

What measures have you taken to help protect the oceans?

As a scientist, my research focuses on some of the most threatened species and problematic fisheries in the hope that by solving some of the more urgent problems, we start to better safeguard our marine systems.

Charles Clover: Ocean Awards co-chair and co-founder of Blue Marine Foundation

Charles Glover
Mattias Klum

Charles Clover is the co-founder and executive director of Blue Marine Foundation, which is dedicated to creating marine reserves and establishing sustainable models of fishing. Clover made his name as an author and environmental journalist and was the environment editor of The Daily Telegraph for 22 years and a columnist for The Sunday Times. In 2004, Clover published his book, The End of the Line, which went on to be the basis for an award-winning documentary film of the same name that raised the issue of overfishing as a global problem.

What concerns you the most about our ocean crisis?

That sea levels are expected to rise by a metre by 2100. That is double what we thought 30 years ago.

What single, practical act would you ask the public to take to help protect our oceans?

Buy sustainably caught fish.

What impressed you the most about the 2020 finalists?

These were people striving to solve some of the ocean’s problems and actually succeeding. We just need more of them and some renewable energy.

Sacha Bonsor: Ocean Awards co-chair and editor-at-large at BOAT International

Sacha Bonsor
Tim Barker

Sacha Bonsor is the editorial director of BOAT International and a former editor at Harper’s Bazaar, The Times and the Daily Mail. Ocean conservation is one of the main pillars at the heart of BOAT's storytelling because, she says, “saving the sea is one of, if not the most, important issues facing humanity today, and it is also the thing that our audience cares about above all else".

What measures has BOAT International taken to help protect the oceans?

We have done an enormous amount to help the oceans and will continue to do so. We launched the Ocean Awards nine years ago, which we are celebrating shortly by announcing this year’s winners. We launched Ocean Talks seven years ago, which brings closer together the yacht industry and the world of marine conservation, and we launched our Yachts for Science programme last year, which we hope will act as a Tinder-like service between yachts and scientists.

What single, practical act would you ask the public to take to help protect our oceans?

I think the most important challenge for anyone hoping to help save our ocean is one of communication. For the vast majority of people, the sea is a distant place, despite the fact that it takes up 70 per cent of our planet, and so the threat of its diminishing health is not at the forefront of their mind. We all need to do our bit to communicate to those around us, in whatever way we can, that if the ocean is not kept healthy, it will directly impact our livelihoods, and that of our children and grandchildren.

Nominations for the Ocean Awards 2024 are now closed and the winners will be announced in the June 2024 issue of BOAT International. If you have any questions, please get in touch with the events team. Find out more about the event here.

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