Ocean leaders made waves this week at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, as British Columbia’s best and brightest in ocean conservation and research gathered at the sold-out 21st Annual Coastal Ocean Awards.

The annual dinner celebrates B.C.’s leaders in marine science, conservation, art, technology, volunteerism, communication, and philanthropy. “The award recipients demonstrate that we in British Columbia are international leaders in coastal ocean sustainability. We have one of the richest coastlines in the world and 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, it is heartening to see that we are world leaders in finding solutions.”

Executive chef Ned Bell of Ocean Wise partner's YEW restaurant at Four Seasons provided sustainable seafood and took home an award for his efforts in ocean conservation.

Executive chef Ned Bell of Ocean Wise partner’s YEW restaurant at Four Seasons Vancouver supplied sustainable seafood and took home an award for his efforts in ocean conservation.

First given out in 1995 as the Murray A. Newman Award — a tribute to the Aquarium’s founding director — the awards dinner has been renamed to reflect the launch of the Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute. The newly named Coastal Ocean Awards now include recognition in other fields including student research, volunteerism, technology, communications, arts and transformative projects. For 2016, the evening also included a celebration of the culinary art of chef and sustainable seafood advocate Ned Bell and featured songs by Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, a Haida lawyer and Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards winner.

In total, nine awards were given:

The North Medal for Contribution to Research and Conservation was awarded to Ross and Trisha Beaty, for their long-time support of environmental initiatives. Ross Beaty is a legendary figure in the mining industry, known as much for generating incredible financial value for his shareholders as he is for his dedication to environmental and social sustainability. 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 the University of British Columbia 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 fishers 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.

Authors XX an XX for the Sea Among US.

Authors Dr. Richard Beamish and Gordon MacFarlane were honoured for their book, The Sea Among Us.

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. The book spent 28 weeks on the B.C. Bestseller list, giving readers a stunning glimpse at one of the world’s greatest inland seas and extensive knowledge that will aid in its conservation. 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. Nuytten has spent 50 years creating deep water dive products, such as his famous “Newt Suit” that is used around the world.

The Transformative Project Award went to The Marine Planning Partnership — a collaborative partnership between the Province of B.C. and 18 Coastal Nations — for the development of marine plans for the North Pacific Coast. The plan covers more than 100,000 square kilometres, making it one of the largest areas covered by a modern marine plan. The award was accepted by Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Dallas Smith, president, Nanwakolas Council.

The award for Conservation Volunteer went to Catherine Smith, an outstanding and active volunteer observer for the 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.  Smith’s numerous detailed records and observations are helping to identify whale migrations and inform mariners so they can avoid whale strikes.

Marina Piscitelli, a PhD student in Zoology at UBC, won the Michael A. Bigg Award for student research 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. Chef 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.

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.

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