Ocean Award 2021 Winners

May 05, 2021 by Blue Marine Foundation and BOAT International


BOAT International and Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) announce the 2021 Ocean Awards winners from an impressive list of finalists, from acclaimed documentary directors to designers of a space-based plastic ocean detection algorithm. Returning for a sixth year, the awards honour and celebrate people and organisations who work tirelessly to help address the crisis in our oceans.

You can watch the full 2021 award ceremony here.

Do you know someone who deserves to win an Ocean Award? The 2022 nominations are open now!


Local Hero Award

Winner: The Sea Women of Melanesia (Naomi Longa) and the Coral Sea Foundation (Andy Lewis)

The Sea Women of Melanesia (SWoM) programme (run by the Coral Sea Foundation) aims to empower indigenous women through scuba diving and marine science skills. The SWoM programme has trained over 28 women in two countries and has directly contributed to the initiation and maintenance of more than 15 locally managed marine reserves and contributes funding support to seven reef survey teams of indigenous trainees. The programme meets four of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and is the first of its kind in the region.

Local Hero Award runners up: Pak Tono – Indonesia  & Marinelife team and volunteers – South-West Dolphin Project. Find out more here.

Science Award

Winner: Dr Lauren Biermann – Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Dr Lauren Biermann of Plymouth Marine Laboratory made a breakthrough in addressing marine plastic pollution in 2020, being the first to show how floating plastics can be detected and monitored using freely available satellite imagery. Her work is published in Nature Scientific Reports. Until Biermann’s paper, no studies had successfully managed to use satellite imagery to identify and track plastic litter in the marine environment. This research shows that it’s possible to detect aggregated patches of macroplastics floating in coastal waters using optical data acquired by the European Space Agency.

Demonstrating remote detection of marine plastics has convinced the European Space Agency (ESA) to allocate resources to this task and Biermann is working with ESA toward a future plastics detection satellite mission.

You can listen to a full interview with Dr Biermann in this podcast:

Science Award runner up: Dr. William Cheung (Wai Lung) – University of British Columbia. Find out more here.

Innovation Award

Winner: Dr Chris Wilcox and the Monitoring Control & Surveillance Analytics Team at CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere – Chris Wilcox and Leslie Roberson

Existing observation systems able to detect ‘dark’ vessels at sea are often prohibitively expensive, especially for developing countries with large marine estates and many small vessels not equipped with tracking technologies like Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). CSIRO developed a technique to provide low-cost data on vessel activities using ships’ existing navigation radar systems, essentially using a ship as a sensor platform. AIS, VMS and satellite data are alternatives, but they are still expensive or essentially voluntary. Vessel tracking systems have limitations where not all vessels are covered, which is the case in areas like Australia, or where only about 60% of a fishing fleet uses AIS.

You can listen to a full interview with Dr Wilcox in this podcast:

Lifetime Achievement Award

Winner: Dr Nancy Knowlton – Sant Chair for Marine Science, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Dr. Nancy Knowlton’s life-long science, educational and outreach initiatives have made fundamental contributions to ocean health. Her research highlighted the role of alternate stable states in blocking the recovery of marine ecosystems and the importance of genetic diversity of coral-algal symbioses in determining sensitivity to global warming, laying the groundwork for today’s focus on creating more resilient reefs. As the founding director of Scripps’ Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, she created a global model for ocean solutions-based education uniting the physical, biological and social sciences. Her focus on solutions led to her co-founding the #OceanOptimism campaign, used by over 45,000 Twitter accounts, whose philosophy – balancing threats with solutions so that challenges do not lead to hopelessness – has permeated conservation programming globally.

You can listen to a full interview with Dr Knowlton in this podcast:

Public Awareness Award

Winner: Sea Change Project – My Octopus Teacher

My Octopus Teacher (MOT) was produced by South African documentary filmmaker, Craig Foster, and directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. MOT premiered on NETFLIX on 7 September 2020 as a Global Original, becoming available to an audience of 400 million. The team behind MOT believe that our disconnect with nature is the root of environmental collapse. Craig Foster also co-founded the Sea Change Project, dedicated himself to learning the secrets of the Great African Seaforest – the inshore kelp habitat at the South-West tip of Africa and where the film was shot. The Sea Change Project supports numerous public awareness and education initiatives that encourage ‘emotional ecology’, citizen science and art.

Public Awareness Award runner up: Hugo Tagholm – Surfers Against Sewage . Find out more here.

Young Initiative Award

Winner: Francesca Trotman – Love the Oceans

At 21 (now 27), Francesca Trotman founded Love the Oceans (LTO) and works tirelessly in Mozambique to establish an MPA. Trotman works with the best interest of the community and oceans at heart, creating a truly holistic approach to ocean sustainability. Covid-19 shut down LTO volunteer programmes, stalled research and community projects, yet Francesca persevered with her work. During this time, she aimed to grow LTO’s social media presence and promote sustainable practices, products and individual behaviour. Nhamussua produced an award winning film that premiered in April about teaching village children about marine conservation, swimming and the ocean.

Yacht of the Year sponsored by Arksen

Winner: Beluga – Ocean Alliance

Australia-based yacht agency Ocean Alliance has teamed up with Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, where individuals can charter MY Beluga while also contributing to marine research. The project aims to make scientific research accessible and easy, whilst utilising science communication in an engaging way. Hands-on interaction with citizen science is encouraged on board, enabling participants to follow the progress and results of their survey. The project also provides a sense of ownership, responsibility and care that will help spread the word about marine citizen science among the close-knit superyacht community.

In November 2020, Beluga was the first-ever superyacht to take part in the Great Reef Census. The Great Reef Census is a world-first for superyacht owners and charterers to participate in conservation efforts on the Australian Great Barrier Reef. It is an opportunity to encourage a culture of ‘yachting for purpose’ and offer charterers on board Beluga the ability to incorporate a meaningful contribution to the ecosystem they are experiencing.

Do you know someone who deserves to win an Ocean Award? The 2022 nominations are open now!

The Ocean Awards are held in partnership with BOAT International and are sponsored by Fishmonger’s Company and Crystal Caviar.

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