Vancouver, B.C. – Leaders in ocean science and conservation made waves this week at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, as British Columbia’s best and brightest gathered at the sold-out 21st Annual Coastal Ocean Awards. First created in 1995, the awards program was created as a tribute to the Aquarium’s founding director, Dr. Murray A. Newman. It’s grown since then; the annual dinner now celebrates those at the forefront of marine science, conservation, art, technology, volunteerism, communication, and philanthropy.
“The award recipients illustrate that we’re international leaders in coastal ocean sustainability. We have an incredible amount to celebrate and share,” said Dr. Andrew Day, executive director of the Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute. “With oceans everywhere under threat from overfishing, pollution, development, and climate change, and B.C. having one of the richest coastlines in the world, it’s heartening to see that we are leading the world in solutions.”
In total, nine awards were given out on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
- The North Medal for Contribution to Research and Conservation was awarded to Ross and Trisha Beaty, for their longtime support of environmental initiatives. The family’s Sitka Foundation has contributed over $15 million dollars to environmental work in British Columbia.
- The Murray A. Newman Award for Significant Achievement in Aquatic Research was awarded to Dr. Colin Brauner of UBC for his ground-breaking contributions to our understanding of how fish work and respond to environmental challenges.
- The Murray A. Newman Award for Significant Achievement in Aquatic Conservation went to Canada’s Pacific Groundfish Trawl Habitat Agreement, a global precedent negotiated between fishermen and environmental groups to address the impact of bottom trawling on sensitive seafloor habitats. The award was accepted by Dr. Scott Wallace and Brian Mose.
- The Conservation and Research Communication Award went to the book The Sea Among Us, the first book to present a comprehensive study of the Strait of Georgia – one of the world’s great inland seas. The award was accepted by authors Dr. Richard Beamish and Gordon MacFarlane.
- The award for Innovative Use of Technology was given to Phil Nuytten, an internationally recognized pioneer in the diving and undersea exploration industry whose famous ‘Newt Suit’ promises to re-shape the future of diving by allowing individuals to explore extreme depths for long periods of time.
- The Transformative Project Award was granted to The Marine Planning Partnership — a co-led partnership between the Province of B.C. and 18 Coastal Nations — for the development of marine plans for the North Pacific Coast. The award was accepted by Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and by Dallas Smith, President, Nanwakolas Council.
- The award for Conservation Volunteer went to Catherine Smith, an outstanding and active volunteer observer for the Aquarium’s B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, a citizen science project that collects sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles across the coast of B.C.
- Marina Piscitelli, a PhD student in Zoology at UBC, won the Michael A. Bigg Award for student research. Her research is already making profound contributions to our understanding of breathing in marine mammals and how it is affected by disease and environmental factors.
- In addition to providing delicious seafood at the event, Chef Ned Bell was recognized with the BC Coastal Artist Award. Bell has been a champion of sustainable seafood for years, including starting Chefs for Oceans and biking across Canada to raise awareness of the importance of purchasing seafood that is sustainably caught. Chef Bell has also advocated for a National Sustainable Seafood Day.
The awards ceremony also featured songs by Haida lawyer and Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards winner Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson.
Coastal Ocean Research Institute
Established to measure and monitor the health of coastal ecosystems, the Coastal Ocean Research Institute produces and communicates scientific knowledge and understanding about Canada’s West Coast. Established by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, the Research Institute is grateful for its generous founding partners the Sitka Foundation and North Growth Foundation.
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is a non-profit society dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. www.vanaqua.org.