BOAT International has hosted the annual Ocean Awards with Blue Marine Foundation for the past seven years to acknowledge innovative achievements that help ocean environments. Let’s take a look at this year’s winners.
Lifetime Achievement Award
MARIO GÓMEZ | BETA DIVERSIDAD AND CODEMAR, MEXICO
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognises an outstanding career. “Mario Gómez is a lifelong explorer who has been a leading advocate for marine conservation in Mexico for decades,” says Maximiliano Bello, an expert on ocean policy who has advised Mission Blue, The Pew Charitable Trusts and Oceana.
“The establishment of Mexico’s first marine protected area (MPA), the Revillagigedo Archipelago National Park, was in large part due to Gómez’s committed work with the government and people of Mexico,” says Bello. “He was instrumental in creating the legal and financial structures to ensure its long-term management and implementation.”
Watch a video about Mario and his work here.
Local Hero Award
NUSI MURSIATI | FORKANI, INDONESIA
This year, the Local Hero award went to Nusi Mursiati who is one of very few women working in marine conservation in Sulawesi Province in Indonesia for Forkani. It is a community-based organisation which aims to bring sustainability to Indonesian octopus fisheries.
“Among her achievements of last year was the temporary closure of four octopus fisheries in the Wakatobi archipelago, an initiative that not only enabled the collection of valuable data but also has resulted in larger, more profitable and, crucially, more sustainable catches,” wrote the Ocean Awards about her work.
Watch a video about her here.
This award category is designed to recognise a new technology, product, service or process that seeks to remedy a problem affecting the health of the oceans. In 2022, the winner was the Saildrone Surveyor, an ocean drone that looks like a sailboat. Carrying solar-powered acoustic research sensors, it is a wind-propelled autonomous vehicle that is able to survey and map the ocean floor.
To date, the new technology discovered an 800-metre seamount off the coast of San Francisco and researchers say that its echo sounders can gauge fish stocks too. In the near future, the Saildrone Surveyor team hopes that their technology will also be capable of analysing eDNA in water samples. Even more impressive: With 20 Surveyors, Saildrone hopes to map the entire ocean floor in high resolution within the next decade, as part of the Seabed 2030 project.
Watch a video on Saildrone here.
PROFESSOR CHRISTOPHER RUF AND MADELINE EVANS | UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, US
In 2022, the Science Award recognises research on microplastic particles. “Currently, microplastic data is predominately sourced from research vessels that tow large, fine-meshed nets,” says Professor Christopher Ruf who was involved in the research. “But this method only covers small areas such as the North Atlantic and North Pacific gyres. And there is also little data available on how microplastic concentrations change over time. We were concerned it might be underestimating the real concentration of microplastics.”
He continues: “We’d been taking radar measurements of surface roughness [of the ocean] and using them to measure wind speed. We knew the presence of stuff in the water alters its responsiveness to the environment, so we got the idea of doing the whole thing backwards. We used changes in responsiveness to predict the presence of microplastics and developed a new method of detecting and imaging it using spaceborne radar.”
“We have used NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, a network of eight microsatellites that was launched in 2016. They measure how wind roughens the surface of the ocean, which acts as an indicator that can be used to track large concentrations of microplastics because material floating on the water’s surface reduces its roughness.”
Through this, the research team creates a global time-lapse of ocean microplastic concentrations to reveal seasonal variations. The team hopes that this “can be part of a fundamental change in how we track and manage microplastic pollution”.
Watch a video on this research here.
Public Awareness Award
HELP OUR KELP | SARAH CUNLIFFE AND BIG WAVE PRODUCTIONS, UK
The Help our Kelp short film advanced the efforts of the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Help our Kelp campaign. In the past, the Sussex kelp forests were a vital nursery and feeding ground for numerous species. “To learn the forests that once thrived along a 40-kilometre stretch of the Sussex coast had virtually all gone over 35 years was shocking,” says the film’s producer, Sarah Cunliffe.
“In 2019, I heard about the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority’s plans to propose a landmark ban on trawling, which tears the kelp from the seabed,” Cunliffe continues. “The aim was to protect 304 square kilometres of seabed, in order to let the kelp recover and regenerate. We made the film to raise awareness on why these marine forests are so important. It led to the Help Our Kelp campaign, which we initiated, and the formation of a coalition of non-governmental organisations, now known as the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project.”
Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the short film was seen by millions, raising the national conservation on kelp. Cunliffe adds that the film inspired “more than 2,500 people to write to support the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority byelaw”, which was approved by the government and enacted in March 2021.
Watch the ocean awards winner video here.
Young Initiative Award
MINORITIES IN SHARK SCIENCES | AMANI WEBBER-SCHULTZ, CARLEE JACKSON, JAIDA ELCOCK AND JASMIN GRAHAM, FLORIDA
This award was created to recognise young individuals or groups between 18 and 30 years of age who improve the ocean environment. 2022’s winner is Minorities in Shark Sciences, an organisation helping “female gender minorities of colour and young people from other minorities to overcome the financial barriers that have historically kept them out of the field of shark science, through education, mentorship programmes and fellowships”, according to the team.
“We believe diversity in scientists creates diversity in thought, which leads to innovation. So we hope to topple the system that has historically excluded us to create an equitable path to shark science,” they add.
Through diverse outreach programmes, an online curriculum for children and adults, as well as stipends and workshops, Minorities in Shark Sciences were able to reach more than 100,000 people last year.
Click here to watch a video on the project here.
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Photography courtesy of Unsplash.