David Helvarg, founder and executive director of the Blue Frontier Campaign, tells us about the organzation's Peter Benchley Ocean Awards.
These awards are the world’s leading marine conservation honors recognizing contributions by ocean leaders from a range of categories, including policy, science, media, exploration, youth and grassroots activism.
The Keynote speaker at Blue Frontier’s first summit back in 2004 was author Peter Benchley. Most people know Peter as the author of ‘Jaws’ the best-selling novel that became a blockbuster directed by Steven Spielberg.
What most people don’t know is that Peter Benchley spent most of his life working to protect sharks and other marine wildlife as a writer, explorer and filmmaker.
Affter Peter passed away in 2006, Blue Frontier renamed our ocean conservation awards in his honor.
This short video talks about Peter and our latest award winners:
There have been 40 recipients of this award to date, each of whom received a Mantas award statue designed by the marine artist Wyland.
Past winners have included three heads of state, U.S. Senators, a Coast Guard Admiral, leading marine scientists, one of the first two humans to reach the deepest point on our planet, an Academy Award winning director and an 11-year-old folk singer with the voice of a young angel (or mermaid).
Check out Ta’Kaiya Blaney’s music video ‘Shallow Waters,’ produced by her folks when she was only 10:
In honoring three presidents from Latin America, Oceana and Africa we hope that nations like Costa Rica, Kiribati and Senegal taking action to restore and protect their seas will also inspire larger nations such as China, India, Russia and the United States to enact strong policies and promote global initiatives for the betterment of our last great commons, our blue frontier.
Winners of the 2013 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards
For Excellence in National Stewardship – President Macky Sall of Senegal
As one of his first acts after his election in 2012, President Sall rescinded all foreign fishing permits in his nation’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. Within months of this action thousands of local fishermen were seeing their catches dramatically increase and their families and communities revived. President Sall is now moving forward with plans to assure a sustainable domestic fishery free of foreign exploitation, creating a resource management model for West Africa and the world.
For Excellence in Science – Dr. Boris Worm & Dr. Heike Lotze
Working both separately and in collaboration this husband and wife team from Dalhousie University in Canada have expanded on the work of the late Ransom Meyer, the first of our science award winners. Through their extensive body of work they have significantly increased the world’s knowledge about the changing abundance and diversity of the planet’s fish and marine wildlife populations and the impact of nutrient pollution and other human activities.
For Excellence in Policy – Congressman (now Senator) Ed Markey
has a strong record of support for the oceans, including as a critic of offshore oil drilling and an outspoken critic of BP during its oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. He has promoted legislation to address climate change and ocean acidification, supports sustainable fishing policy and, as the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee has been a strong defender of the President’s National Ocean Policy, the Clean Water Act and other marine and fresh water protections.
2012 Peter Benchley Ocean Award statues designed by Wyland
For Excellence in Media – Nancy Baron & COMPASS
In 1999 leading ocean scientists and communications professionals established COMPASS to train marine scientists in communications skills needed to talk to the media, the public, and policymakers about their findings. As the long-time director for COMPASS, Nancy Baron played a pivotal role in establishing strong links between thousands of scientists and journalists so that changes and discoveries in our seas become news and information we can all use.
Christopher Benchley Youth Award – Sean Russell
As a high school intern at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, Sean Rusell became aware of the problem of marine plastic pollution. In response he founded “Stow It-Don’t Throw It
,” a statewide monofilament fishing line recycling program and effort between youth and environmental groups that has since gone national. In 2011 Sean led the first Youth Ocean Conservation Summit held in Florida that has now become an annual event. He has also given countless hours to community service projects while serving as a member of the Florida 4-H Program. Sean is now a 20-year-old senior at the University of Florida.
Hero of the Seas – Karen Garrison and Kaitilin Gaffney
Karen and Kaitilin have worked together for more than a decade leading the effort to create, design, and implement California’s 1999 Marine Life Protection Act that, following a long and arduous process, resulted in a world-class system of ocean wilderness parks. As of late 2012, these ocean parks cover some 16 percent of California state waters. While working for the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Ocean Conservancy Karen and Kaitilin kept their focus on grassroots organizing. In the words of California Secretary for Natural Resource’s John Laird, “They were incredibly successful in persuading others to their view because they listened to people’s concerns, and worked with them to find solutions that worked for all.”
Nominations for the 2014 Awards that will take place at the California Academy of Sciences on May 30 2014 are now open to the public.
If you have an ocean hero you’d like to nominate please click on this link
and place their name in the running.
In giving out the Benchley Awards we seek to highlight solutions that work both for the ocean, coasts and communities that depend on them.
Recent winners have included Geraldine Knatz, the Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles who, after reducing port pollution 70 percent in six years while expanding its business, became a leader of the global ‘Greening Ports’ movement.
Geraldine Knatz, the Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles
Another winner was the late Peter Douglas, founder and long-time Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission that has stopped unsound development while guaranteeing public access along 1,100 miles of the world’s most spectacular coastline.
I’ll write about that in Blue Frontier Campaign’s final blog post, coming soon on the Nobeltec blog.
Connect to The Blue Frontier Campaign on Twitter: @bluefrontier