Each year the Ocean Awards, held in partnership with BOAT International, celebrates the achievements of individuals, groups and organisations from around the world dedicated to restoring the health of our oceans. Now in its eighth year, the awards continue to shine a light on a number of worthy initiatives, from local community projects to large-scale studies, and a panel of judges had the unenviable task of whittling down over 70 candidates to just 22 finalists. Discover the individuals, innovative technologies and environmental projects that have made the shortlist this year…
The Local Hero Award
The Local Hero Award award recognises the individual or group that has had the most positive impact on the marine environment within their local community this year.
Name: Nusi Mursiti
Forum Kahedupa Toudani (FORKANI) is a community organisation on Kaledupa Island in Indonesia that aims to rally the local community and teach local groups how to manage natural resources in a sustainable way. Nusi Mursiti was only the second woman to join FORKANI and has been a prominent advocate for community engagement in marine management and conservation. She facilitated a community learning exchange on the island, helped scale up the work of the organisation and organised training for the communities to monitor seaweed and finfish.
Name: Sheena Talma
Organisation: Nekton Foundation, Save Our Seas Foundation
Sheena is a young Seychellois scientist and has led a number of projects in the Seychelles, including a short documentary tackling misinformation on sharks in the area, which was aired by Greenpeace, and a string of awareness campaigns with Save Our Seas on key environmental issues such as plastic pollution and the importance of seagrass and mangroves. Currently, Sheena is leading a feasibility study with SeyCCAT to determine whether a sustainable seafood labelling system will work in Seychelles, and she has recently Partnered with Nekton and Ocean Discovery, on a project that aims to make the deep sea more accessible.
Name: Pascoal Nhamussua
Organisation: Love The Oceans (LTO)
Pascoal Nhamussua is a community leader and conservationist in Mozambique and, after learning to swim in his mid-20s, became enamoured with the ocean. He took his newfound skill and became the first citizen to qualify as an STA Swimming. He now works as a Community Outreach Manager for Love The Oceans (LTO) and offers swimming lessons as well as spearheading a number of local initiatives in the area. Pascoal is working with local governments to raise funds to build community swimming pools, and he currently manages the ‘Kayak-Powered Sustainable Fishing Programme’ in Jagamo Bay, a project that supplies local fishermen with kayaks for pole-and-line fishing, an alternative to unsustainable methods such as gillnetting.
Name: Jose Saucedo
Organisation: Doha Environmental Action Program (DEAP)
Jose is the director of the Doha Environmental Action Program (DEAP) which is the only environmental NGO in the State of Qatar. The organisation is run largely by Jose himself, with the assistance of volunteers, with little funding. DEAP runs several litter clean ups every week along the beaches of Doha, and partners with different schools, organisations, or companies to empower the local community to take environmental action. Jose uses these cleans ups, to not only physically remove litter, but as a tool to engage the public into conversations about plastic pollution.
The Science Award
This Sciene Award recognises the individual or research team that has made an original scientific contribution about the ocean this year.
Name: Carlos Duarte
Research Institute: Kaust University
Prof. Carlos Duarte, a diver with almost 40 years of experience, felt that no one was addressing the impacts of anthropogenic noise (human noise pollution) on the ‘soundscape’ of the ocean, so decided to collate all his evidence and bring it to the front of ocean conservation issues in a paper entitled The Soundscape of the Anthropocene Ocean.This article has brought ocean noise to the forefront of the attention of scientists, policy makers and the public. Duarte encourages NGOs to use the paper to support campaigns for a ‘quieter’ and less noise- polluted ocean.
Name: Peter Macreadie
Research Institute: Deakin University – Blue Carbon Lab
Peter Macreadie’s research paper, entitled Blue Carbon as a natural climate solution, provides the world’s first estimate of the global potential of blue carbon (mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and tidal marshes) as a natural climate solution. The study compiled global data and found that halting the destruction of coastal wetlands could avoid emissions of 304 million tonnes of CO2 per annum. The article gained traction in mainstream media and is the top 1% of journals garnering such media attention.
Name: Madeline Evans and Christopher Ruf
Research Institute: University of Michigan
Madeline Evans and Prof. Christopher Ruf have developed a new method for detecting and imaging ocean microplastic concentration using a constellation of spaceborne radars. Currently, microplastic data is largely sourced from research vessels that tow large, fine meshed nets, but such methods can only cover so much ground. Evans and Ruf’s technology tackles this issue by using a network of eight microsatellites that measure how wind roughens the surface of the ocean, which acts as an indicator that can be used to detect and track large concentrations of microplastics.
The Innovation Award
The Innovation Award recognises the individual, company or group that has this year publicly introduced innovative measures for reducing stress on the oceans or for improving ocean health.
Organisation: Global Fishing Watch
Innovative measure: Marine Manager
Global Fishing Watch Marine Manager is a free technology portal designed for marine managers and other decision makers to support the design, management and monitoring of existing and new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs are an essential tool to sustain biodiversity and help rebuild species abundance in the face of overfishing, rising water temperatures and ocean acidification. Global Fishing Watch Marine Manager provides decision makers with more comprehensive and dynamic information, through science- based data to help establish and inform the management of marine protected areas.
Organisation: Whale Seeker
Innovative measure: Mobius
Mobius by Whale Seeker leverages artificial intelligence to detect marine mammals quickly and accurately from aerial images and is the first tool of its kind tailored to whale detection. Aerial imaging is a powerful tool for wildlife management and provides fine-scale spatial data essential for mitigating impact and collisions along maritime transport routes. This data is traditionally processed manually by human analysts, which is expensive and time-consuming, but Mobius can reduce analysis time by 80 per cent while improving accuracy using artificial intelligence.
Organisation: Saildrone Inc.
Innovative measure: Saildrone Surveyor
Accurate ocean topography is vital for navigation, telecommunications, offshore energy, and understanding weather and climate, but only 21 per cent of the ocean has been mapped using modern technology. Traditional mapping methods utilise crewed vessels that are expensive, have a large carbon footprint and the engines generate noise which in turn degrades the mapping image. In January 2021, Saildrone launched a 72-foot uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) equipped with acoustic instruments for high-resolution shallow and deep-water mapping. Designed by Richard Jenkins and built by Saildrone in California, the Surveyor is propelled primarily by wind, and harvests renewable energy to power onboard sensors. It is the only USV capable of mapping remote areas of the ocean without local support. The Surveyor’s first mission was a 28-day voyage from San Francisco to Honolulu, which mapped over a 1000 square-miles of previously-unmapped seabed.
Organisation: Swiss Ocean Tech
Innovative measure: Anchor Guardian
Dragging anchors pose a significant threat to fragile marine ecosystems. Despite advanced naval navigation equipment, it isn’t possible today for the crew to know if, by how much and how fast, the anchor is dragging in real-time. AnchorGuardian offers a new dimension of safety at sea by minimising the risk of anchor dragging, providing predictions and immediate alarms. AnchorGuardian monitors the absolute movement and position of a ship’s anchor, supports the crew whilst laying and lifting the anchor with relevant intelligence and provides immediate, fail-safe alarms with sub-meter accuracy.
Name/Organisation: Kakani Katija/Monterey Bay Aquarium
Research Institute Innovative measure: FathomNet
Kakani Katija is a Hawaiian bioengineer and leads the Bioinspiration Lab at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). In 2021, she developed the FathomNet initiative, which is an open-source image database for understanding the ocean and its inhabitants by using sophisticated machine learning. The public platform utilises existing data to train, test and validate state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to understand and identify marine life. In other words, using AI algorithms on existing (and future) data to know what’s in the ocean and where it is to enable effective and responsible management. It is the only high-quality image database of its kind.
The Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognises an individual that has taken the lead on globally significant actions, such as policy or advocacy initiatives, for the benefit of ocean health, over an extended period of time.
Name: Terry Hughes
Organisation/Research Institute: James Cook University, Australia
Terry Hughes has contributed more than any other individual to transformative and transdisciplinary research on tropical reefs over the past three decades. His research interests encompass coral reef ecology, macroecology and evolution, and he is renowned for his research on global coral bleaching. Hughes was awarded a PhD in Ecology and Evolution in 1984 for his ground-breaking research on coral life histories, phase-shifts and the resilience of Caribbean coral reefs and has published over 140 peer reviewed publications in his lifetime. Under direction of Hughes, the ARC Centre has grown to become the world’s most foremost authority on coral reef science and is a hub for world-leading research and graduate training. Terry’s research has evolved to encompass the interface between biology and the social sciences, enabling a broader evaluation of the linkages between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, coral reef governance, and the welfare of human societies.
Name: Mario Gómez
Organisation/Research Institute: Executive Director of Beta Diversidad and CODEMAR
Mario Gómez has always been a conservationist dedicated to ocean protection and, over the past two decades, has devoted much of his time to promoting the declaration of new protected areas in Mexico. He was involved in the creation of Mexico’s first Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the Revillagigedo National Park, and has been instrumental in creating the legal and financial structures to ensure their long-term management and implementation. Gómez launched the only Mexican ocean conservation private trust fund to help the government create and strengthen MPAs and promote conservation and restoration of ecosystems across the country, and is currently working alongside the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project to establish an MPA spanning an area of the Sea of Cortez and into the Pacific.
Name: Jane Lubchenco
Organisation/Research Institute: Oregon State University, NOAA
Dr. Jane Lubchenco is a world-renowned environmental scientist and marine ecologist with expertise in the ocean, climate change, and interactions between the environment and human well-being with an outstanding legacy in science and public policy. Lubchenco has served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for four years and was an inaugural member of President Obama’s “Science Dream Team”. In February 2021, she was appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as Deputy Director for Climate and Environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and was also appointed as the first U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean.
The Public Awareness Award
The Public Awareness Award recognises the individual or group that has done the most this year to advance marine conservation objectives, including public literacy about marine conservation issues, be it through campaigning and advocacy, the mainstream media, art forms, or educational programmes.
Name: Shark with Steve Backshall
Awareness initiative type: Four-part natural history TV series from Sky
World-renowned conservationist, explorer and BAFTA recipient Steve Backshall MBE has fronted a ground-breaking series for Sky. Shark with Steve Backshall is a four-part series that reveals the secret wonders of sharks in an attempt to dispel the reputation of the species as cold-blooded killers and educate viewers on the role sharks play in maintaining ocean health. Coming eye to eye with this feared yet misunderstood predator, Steve reveals sharks in a brand-new light.
Awareness initiative type: A Netflix Original documentary
Seaspiracy is a ground-breaking Netflix Original documentary that exposes the environmental impact of commercial fishing. This controversial film places a spotlight on overfishing and ultimately advocates for ending the consumption of fish. Directed by British Director and film maker Ali Tabrizi, Seaspiracy was produced by the team behind the award-winning 2014 film Cowspiracy. Featured topics included plastic marine debris, ghost nets and overfishing around the world.
Name: Sarah Cunliffe – Help Our Kelp campaign and film
Awareness initiative type: Campaign
In just a few weeks Sarah Cunliffe/Big Wave created a film that told the story of the loss of an underwater forest off the coast of Sussex. Kelp once stretched along 40 km of the West Sussex coastline, providing vital habitat, nursery and feeding grounds for many marine species and locking up huge quantities of carbon. Since 1987 however, over 96 per cent of Sussex’s kelp had been destroyed due to years of destructive trawling and other human pressures. The Help Our Kelp film was created alongside a campaign to raise awareness of the depleting kelp forest and rally enthusiasm for a new byelaw to prohibit trawling in the area.
The Young Initiative Award
The Young Initiative Award recognises an individual, or group of individuals, between the ages of 18 and 30 who is at the beginning of their career. The winner of this award will have demonstrated promising leadership and vision on ocean issues, be it through campaigning and advocacy, the mainstream media, art forms, or educational programmes.
Names: Amani Webber-Schultz, Carlee Jackson, Jaida Elcock and Jasmin Graham
Organisation: Minorities in Shark Science
Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS) is an organization founded by four black female shark scientists with the aim to educate the public on the importance of sharks in marine ecosystems, and amplify the research and work of women of colour in the field of shark research and conservation. In their first year, the team launched a science outreach programme called Gill Guardians which provides an online curriculum for all ages to learn about shark research and conservation. They provided six fellowships to emerging shark scientists to participate in research experiences and hosted ten women of colour aboard a research vessel to teach them research and field techniques.
Name: Mirali Shukla
Organisation: iO Conservancy
The iO conservancy was inspired by Mirali’s interest in the intersection between science and traditional ecological knowledge. This forms the basis of the conservancy which tries to find conservation solutions that work for both the planet and its communities. iO Conservancy is currently undertaking a project to reforest 100,000 mangroves across various local community areas in East Africa to provide sustainable income for communities, tackle climate change and increase/support marine biodiversity.
Name: Faqih Akbar
Organisation: Elasmobranch Project Indonesia (EPI)
Faqih Akbar is a 26-year-old marine scientist with a passion for shark and ray conservation in Indonesia. In 2020, Faqih and his friend Nadia Maula founded the Elasmobranch Project Indonesia (EPI) – a citizen science project that aims to map the biodiversity and distribution of elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) in Indonesia. EPI is the first nationwide initiative using citizen science to map the elasmobranch species biodiversity and distribution.
Name: Rebecca Daniel
Organisation: The Marine Diaries
Rebecca Daniel is the director of The Marine Diaries, an ocean science communication non-profit on a mission to use digital media to educate, advocate, and inspire the public about marine conservation issues. While undertaking her master’s degree in tropical marine biology, Rebecca realised that scientific research is not always accessible to the public and is mostly only brought into the public eye through media forms such as documentaries. The Marine Diaries aims to use a whole range of communication platforms, such as social media, webinars, films etc., to communicate science in a way that was more digestible and accessible.