WWF has presented the 2015 Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award to Dr Alasdair Harris and Mr Alifereti Tawake for their significant contributions to marine conservation.
This award highlights the extraordinary effort the winners are taking to support local communities in rebuilding fish populations, which have fallen by 50 per cent globally over the last 40 years, and restore marine habitat, like coral reefs, through community-based conservation.
All life on Earth depends on a healthy ocean. Billions of us rely on it for food, livelihoods and regulation of the climate, however, unstainable practices are pushing our ocean systems to the point of collapse.
“Both winners demonstrate by working with communities, businesses and governments, we can solve the biggest challenges facing our marine environment. Their ability to combine marine science with local knowledge to create practical solutions exemplify WWF’s global marine conservation work. Through their leadership and vision, they are demonstrating how community-based conservation efforts can improve and sustain livelihoods,” said Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF International.
Mr Alifereti Tawake’s innovative approach to marine conservation has led to the establishment of the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas Network, which has served as a model for community-based resource management globally. Working with local fishermen and coastal communities and by integrating cultural tradition with best practice fisheries management, his work has advanced the practice of community-based marine resource management and conservation in the South Pacific.
Alifereti Tawake said, “This award ultimately recognizes globally the power of a growing network of communities that are meeting their basic needs through effective local management and it recognizes that their cumulative efforts make vital contributions to global conservation efforts and targets.”
Dr Alasdair Harris, founder of Blue Ventures, has worked in collaboration with coastal communities, government partners and NGOs to demonstrate the importance of coastal and marine conservation for food security and livelihoods. His innovative strategies to rebuild tropical fisheries through supporting the creation of locally managed marine areas have brought tangible benefits to many communities, particularly in Madagascar and Belize, and these strategies are now being replicated across other areas of the Indian and Pacific oceans.
“For the hundreds of millions of people who depend on life in our tropical seas for food and income, sustainable fisheries are a matter of survival. This award recognises the growing grassroots movement working to mobilise communities throughout the tropics to protect our seas by demonstrating that marine conservation makes compelling economic sense,” said Alasdair Harris upon receiving the award.
The Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award was created in 1970 and is presented annually by WWF for outstanding service to the environment. This year’s award was presented by The Duke of Edinburgh during a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.