The GIRL of THE SEA of CORTEZ is my favorite Peter Benchley novel. It's a high-spirited adventure story that speaks to my personal love of the ocean and all its fascinating creatures. The story takes you under the sea to experience the spectacular, but it also shares the threats facing our seas. While this book was written 30 years ago, Peter was prescient about mans complex relationship to the sea. This captivating story is even more relevant today than ever.
--Gregory S. Stone, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for Oceans, Conservation International
"The ocean drives the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the oxygen cycle, the nitrogen cycle … it drives the way the world works. Even if you never touch the ocean, the ocean touches you every day. And it’s only now, as we get into the 21st century, that we’re beginning to put the blue part of the planet on the balance sheet."
"It is our responsibility to preserve and cherish this pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."
--Carl Sagan, Astronomer + Author
“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”
--Jacques Cousteau, Oceanographer + Explorer
What do a West African President, a pair of scientists studying life in the ocean, a twenty-year-old veteran of 4-H clubs, a Massachusetts Congressman, and two California women who spent over a decade working to create underwater parks have in common? They are among the winners of this year’s, sixth annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards.
The Benchleys are the only awards program dedicated to recognizing excellence in ocean conservation solutions across a wide range of categories including science, policy, media, youth and citizen activism. The awards celebrate exceptional efforts leading to the protection of our ocean, coasts and the communities that depend on them.
This year’s winners were selected from among dozens of highly qualified candidates whose names were submitted to the selection committee. The awards will be presented on May 15, 2013 in Washington, D.C. during Blue Vision Summit 4.
We are please to announce the Peter Benchley Ocean Award recipients for 2013:
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As one of his first acts after his election in 2012 President Sall rescinded all foreign fishing permits in his nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Within months of his action thousands of local fishermen were seeing their catches dramatically increased and their families and communities restored. 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 – Boris Worm + Heike Lotze
Working both separately and in collaboration this husband and wife team of scientists from Dalhousie University in Canada have continued to expand on the work of the late Ransom Meyer, the first Benchley science award winner. 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 – U.S. Representative Ed Markey
Representative Markey (D-MA) has a strong record of support for the oceans including as a critic of offshore drilling and 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 National Ocean Policy, the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections.
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 Ocean Science Outreach Director for COMPASS Nancy Baron has 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
Twenty-year-old Sean Russell became aware of the problem of marine plastic pollution as a high school intern at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida. In response he founded the “Stow It-Don’t Throw It” project, a statewide monofilament fishing line recycling program and collaborative effort between youth and environmental groups that has since gone national. In 2011, with the help of Mote Marine Lab, Sean led the first Youth Ocean Conservation Summit held in Florida that inspired the creation of the activist Youth Ocean Conservation Team (YOCT). 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 senior at the University of Florida.
Hero of the Seas – Karen Garrison + Kaitilin Gaffney
They have worked together for more than a decade leading the effort to create, design and implement California’s 1999 Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) that, following a long and arduous process, has resulted in a world-class system of ocean wilderness parks. As of late 2012 these Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) 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…their contribution to our blue ocean and to the communities that depend upon it is monumental.”
Hopefully hundreds of you will join this year’s winners at the Carnegie Institution in D.C. on the evening of May 15. The awards ceremony will be free and open to the general public. The awards dinner will be a ticketed event and not included in Blue Vision Summit 4 registration. Tickets will go on sale in February.