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Saviours of the Seas

Winners of the Ocean Awards 2018 announced
Saviours of the Seas

Yesterday (09 May), Boat International Media, the global authority on superyachting, announced the winners of its third annual Ocean Awards, in partnership with Blue Marine Foundation.

The awards aim to honour, recognise and reward those that work tirelessly to fix the largest problem on the planet – the crisis in our oceans.

‘The calibre of this year’s nominees was extraordinary and if you are a winner of an Ocean Award it is a high distinction indeed.’

Executive director of Blue Marine Foundation

Our role in ocean conservation

In the past year, we’ve become increasingly aware of our role in the protection of the oceans. The success of Blue Planet II and the range of forward-thinking anti-plastic campaigns have all played important parts in the continued efforts to conserve our seas.

Organisers said the nominations for this year’s Ocean Awards came ‘in abundance’ – in terms of volume, geographical breadth and tangible impact.

Highlights among this year’s winners include James Honeyborne, Mark Brownlow and team who are the producers behind the seven-episode series Blue Planet II, presented by Sir David Attenborough, who won the highly coveted Public Awareness Award.

Ben Halpern – director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, who produced Planetary Boundaries for a Blue Planet, an epic report that was 15 years in the making – took away the Science Award.

The awards also celebrated pioneers George Watters, Peter Young, John Weller, Lewis Pugh And David Ainley, who have all contributed to establishing the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area

Superyachts and conservation

Boat International Media has also announced the launch of Ocean Talks – a new event allowing the superyacht industry and the marine conservation world to unite, swap stories and learn from each other’s experiences.

The event will be held in London on Wednesday 13 June 2018, with speakers including James Honeyborne, producer from Blue Planet II, Espen Øino, designer and naval architect at Espen Øino International and broadcaster Lady Georgina Ainslie.

‘This year Boat International Media received an outstanding calibre of entries for the Ocean Awards. We’re delighted that we can highlight the forward-thinking people and their incredible work, to preserve the future of our oceans. All of the inspiring nominees and winners, who are driving awareness and implementing change to save our oceans, should all be immensely proud of their achievements.’

Editor in chief, Boat International Media


WINNER: Norlan Pagal

Long a campaigner against illegal shing in the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape in the Philippines, local councillor Norlan Pagal was on his way home after making a speech in a village hall in San Remigio when he was shot. The attack left the father of five, a fisherman by trade, paralysed from the waist down at the age of 46.

It was not the first time that Pagal had been physically attacked – his boat was blown up on one occasion, and on another he was beaten about the head with an oar – but he continues to campaign on marine conservation issues with the Anapog Fishermen’s Association.

The association was formed in his home village of Anapog (population fewer than 2,000) to guard against piracy in the Anapog Fish Sanctuary, one of eight Marine Protected Areas in the municipality where fishing was banned and for which Pagal was a seaborne patrol chief.

Now a wheelchair user, he remains pragmatic, even optimistic about the future. The association, which he chairs, has embarked on a project to seed abalone, clams and sea cucumbers to nurture new life that can in time be harvested. ‘I am not afraid to continue my advocacy, even if I lose my life’, he has said. ‘What is important is that our children and grandchildren will see that it is not a lost cause; that there is value and goodness they get out of it after all.’


WINNER: Ben Halpern

Last year brought the publication of Planetary Boundaries for a Blue Planet, an epic report that was 15 years in the making. It was led by Ben Halpern, director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, an independent research affiliate of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Halpern trained as an ecologist and marine biologist and believes it’s possible to find solutions to managing and conserving Nature only if you also understand people and how they interact with it.

‘It builds on some of the seminal work that Johan Rockström developed about a decade ago at the Stockholm Resilience Centre on planetary boundaries for the Earth’, he says. That focused on the limits to which the Earth’s resources can be pushed and remain sustainable but, as Halpern points out, it ‘essentially forgot the ocean’. ‘The message of the work’, he continues, ‘is that we are probably closer to some of the boundaries beyond which the system starts to break down irreversibly, than we realised.’


WINNER: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

More than two decades ago, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg was one of the first scientists to warn that coral bleaching was a sign of climate change and global warming. No surprise then that he appears in – and was the chief scientific adviser for – the Netflix documentary Chasing Coral, winner of the Audience Award at last year’s Sundance Festival.

A professor of marine science at the University of Queensland, Hoegh-Guldberg is also the inaugural director of its Global Change Institute, ‘an independent source of innovative research, ideas, policy and advice for addressing the challenges of a changing world’. As one of the foremost experts on how global warming is threatening the world’s oceans, he was lead author of the chapter on the ocean in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, and has advised organisations as diverse as the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the World Bank and the Royal Society in London.


WINNER: Ben Kibel

In 1999 Ben Kibel, a mechanical engineer, and his brother Pete, a fisheries specialist and biologist, founded Fishtek Marine to develop gadgets that make fishing less harmful to marine life and to the environment.

When fishing for swordfish, fishers tend to use chemical lightsticks or glowsticks to attract the fish. They are highly polluting if they are discarded in the ocean, which about 700 million are each year. They are also expensive: about 10% of a fishermen’s expenses.

Fishtek’s solution, ProGlow, is an inexpensive, endurable, reusable alternative, weighing just 17 grams and depth-rated to 1,000 metres. There are three models with varying degrees of brightness, all fuelled by two replaceable AAA batteries, and the basic model should last two years.


WINNERS: James Honeyborne, Mark Brownlow & team

16 years after the original Blue Planet series, the BBC’s Natural History Unit, in partnership with the Open University, produced a follow-up, a seven-episode series presented by Sir David Attenborough and broadcast at prime-time on Sunday evenings.

Towards the end of the Blue Planet II series last year, it was attracting audiences of 17 million; when Theresa May visited China in January, she took Xi Jinping a copy of the box set.

The final episode, Our Blue Planet, examined the toll taken on the oceans by humanity through over-fishing (and discarded fishing gear), the careless trashing of plastics, especially those used just once, noise and light pollution.

If we do not act, was its message, then the marine life you have marvelled at will be gone. As the series’ executive producer James Honeyborne puts it: ‘Ocean-related problems tend to be global issues. If you drop a bit of plastic in one ocean, it can end up in another, even several oceans away. So it’s great for this series to get into every country it can.’

The series continues to be cited as an inspiration, not least by Buckingham Palace. In February, a palace spokesperson announced that single-use plastic bottles and drinking straws would no longer be used on royal estates.


JOINT WINNER: Kristina Gjerde

The currents that cause sargassum weed to aggregate in the Sargasso Sea have also caused it to become a gigantic gyre, or agglomeration, of plastic waste, so endangering the unique species for which it is a breeding ground.

Thanks in part to the American lawyer Kristina Gjerde, adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, and senior high seas adviser to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, this ‘wondrous place’ is now the object of a campaign to protect it and its ecosystem.

The Sargasso Sea Alliance, which she co-founded in 2010, aims to ensure legal protection for fragile ecosystems and provide insight to aid the establishment of other Marine Protected Areas. Applying the rule of law to the high seas is one thing, enforcing it is another. This, as she said in her TED talk, leads her to her second passion – space technology. ‘I wanted to be an astronaut, so I’ve constantly followed the tools available to monitor Earth from outer space.’ This enables the tagging and tracking of fishing vessels.

JOINT WINNER: Judi Wakhungu

Last August, Kenya became the latest country in Africa to ban plastic bags, following the lead set by Rwanda in 2008. It was the culmination of a long campaign driven by Professor Judi Wakhungu, then cabinet secretary for environment, water and natural resources since 2013.

Now visitors arriving by plane are required to leave duty-free and other plastic carriers at the airport, and they may not be brought ashore from boats. Prior to the ban, an estimated 24 million bags were handed out each month across the nation (which has a population of 41 million), 86,000 a day in Nairobi alone. Few were responsibly disposed of, let alone recycled, hence the 24 tonnes of plastic waste that was collected across the 188 square kilometres of lake.

The environment can only benefit from the ban. ‘I am excited my efforts have yielded this’, says Wakhungu, whose masters degree was in petroleum geology and who has spent most of her distinguished career in the energy sector, having worked in the Ministry of Energy and Regional Development, investigating geothermal energy in the Rift Valley. ‘It is something I have been yearning for.’ The blight caused by plastic bags was becoming an ‘environmental nightmare’.


WINNER: Establishing the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area

The Ross Sea is the southernmost part of the Southern Ocean. It extends into a huge bay under the Ross Ice Shelf, part of the polar ice cap that is Antarctica. It remains one of the last, perhaps the last, genuinely pristine place on Earth, home to a fully functioning marine ecosystem that is still miraculously free from pollution, untainted by mining and untroubled by invasive species.

Many individuals and organisations were involved in this achievement, but the judges singled out the below individuals for their outstanding contributions.

George Watters, chair, CCAMLR Working Group on Ecosystem Monitoring and Management; Peter Young, John Weller And David Ainley, The Last Ocean film-makers, Lewis Pugh, founder of the Lewis Pugh Foundation.

Click here for more about the Ocean Awards and 2018’s winners.

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