Pwo master navigator and Polynesian Voyaging Society president Nainoa Thompson was honored with a Peter Benchley Ocean Award in Washington, D.C., Thursday.
It is the only major awards program dedicated to recognizing excellence in marine conservation solutions across a wide range of expertise including science, policy, media, youth, exploration and citizen activism. Winners are nominated by the ocean conservation community and chosen by the Benchley Awards Selection Committee.
Thompson was honored alongside fellow recipients, including His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco and U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, at a ceremony on May 14 at the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington D.C.
Each winner was presented with a Benchley ‘Mantas Award sculpture’ designed by famed marine artist Wyland.
View all 2015 winners below:
For Excellence in National Stewardship: HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco
In 2006 the Prince established the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation dedicated to protecting the environment that has since highlighted and supported a number of important marine conservation efforts. In 2009 the Prince participated in a three-week scientific journey to Antarctica following several polar expeditions. Since then he has played a vital role in supporting scientific research, conferences and collaboration around the issue of ocean acidification and climate, advocated for protection of biodiversity on the high seas and promoted healthy ocean policies in a wide range of
forums that can influence decision-making on a global scale.
For Excellence in Policy: Secretary of State John F. Kerry
“Our ocean is in trouble. We have to summon global cooperation so that we can take the steps necessary to protect our ocean for generations to come,” says Secretary of State John Kerry. As a U.S. Senator Kerry worked hard to restore the health of Boston Harbor and actively promoted solutions to improve the ocean and coastal environment. As Secretary of State he has taken extraordinary steps to realize this including advancing global efforts to end Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing, and encouraging the President and other world leaders to expand marine protected areas such as the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which has expanded six-fold in size to almost half a million square miles. He hosted the first ‘Our Ocean’ global leadership conference in June 2014, bringing together government leaders, scientists, environmentalists and business leaders to discuss the threats facing our ocean and catalyze innovative marine conservation ideas. As chair of the eight-nation Arctic Council he will also bring an appreciation for this fragile climate-impacted region to deliberations on its future.
For Excellence in Science: Dr. Daniel Pauly
Dr. Daniel Pauly is founder and leader of the ‘Sea Around Us’ project at the University of British Columbia. Known for developing the concept of ‘Shifting Baselines’ and scientifically documenting and explaining ‘fishing down the food web,’ he has become a world leader in identifying overfishing as a threat to marine ecosystems and global food security. In addition he is an outspoken advocate for taking corrective action, his views widely respected by policymakers, the media and his fellow scientists. His hundreds of peer-reviewed publications, several books and years of research based out of Germany, the Philippines and Canada mark him as an exceptional scientific resource for our living seas.
For Excellence in Media: The Economist
The Economist has been an influential weekly news publication since 1843 with a contemporary circulation of some 1.5 million highly educated readers. In recent years it has dedicated a significant amount of its news coverage to the growing and varied challenges facing the world’s ocean. Along with superior and consistent coverage of issues ranging from the Arctic to the deep seas to ports, shipping and fishing, it has also sponsored an annual ‘World Ocean Summit’ first launched in Singapore in 2012. These Summits bring together world leaders, policymakers, innovators, businesses, science and journalism to try and advance the cause of a healthy and sustainable ocean and global blue economy.
For Excellence in Exploration: Nainoa Thompson
Charles Nainoa Thompson is president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and master of the traditional Pacific Island art of “wayfinding,” or non-instrument navigation. He was the first Native Hawaiian since the 14th century to practice long-distance wayfinding, and in 1976 inspired a revival of Hawaiian knowledge and culture with the launch and navigation of Hōkūleʻa, a traditional double-hulled voyaging canoe. For decades, Thompson has dedicated himself to teaching the skills and values of wayfinding to generations of navigators throughout Polynesia. Hōkūleʻa has now sailed over 145,000 nautical miles throughout the Pacific and is currently on a journey around the world to join and grow the movement for a more sustainable future.
Christopher Benchley Youth Award: Madison ‘Pip’ Stewart
Twenty-one-year-old Madison Stewart became an activist at the age of 8 passing out a petition in her school to get rid of shark killing nets near her Australian home. Starting at age 12 she began diving with sharks, turning to home schooling at 14 so she could focus more of her time on diving and filming tiger sharks and other of these endangered predators on the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere. Over the last seven year’s she’s campaigned against the shark meat and shark finning trade in Australia, Mexico, Fiji, Palau and in other locales. This past year she became the subject of an award-winning Smithsonian documentary, “Shark Girl.”
She continues campaigning to defend sharks and their ocean habitat.
Hero of the Seas: Todd Miller and Dana Beach
North Carolina coastal native Todd Miller was raised in the community of Ocean next to Bogue Sound. In 1982 he founded the North Carolina Coastal Federation that now has more than 16,000 supporters working together to enhance the environment and economy of the state’s coastline. Under his guidance the federation’s staff of 29 carries out advocacy, education and restoration programs that have reduced pollution and protected hundreds of thousands of acres of coastal habitat while restoring oyster reefs, salt marshes and other key components of North Carolina beautiful coast.
Dana Beach is a South Carolina native who founded the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League in 1989. With his staff of 30 he works with communities, businesses and citizen groups to protect the state’s white sand beaches, salt marshes, swamps, pine savannahs and marine wildlife. Along with successfully fighting industrial hog farms, coal plants and other unsound development his group and its partners have protected over a million acres of South Carolina’s spectacular coastline.