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Fourth Annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards


For additional video from Awards, visit our youtube site.

 PDF of 2011 Benchley Program

The fourth annual awards took place May 21, 2011 during Blue Vision Summit 3 in Washington, D.C. We were honored to have the awardees, presenters, and master of ceremonies, Dr. Sylvia Earle join us for this wonderful event. Thank you to all who came out to celebrate these individuals and their contributions to the marine community. Click here for photos from the events. Watch the Awards Ceremony (Part 1 and Part 2)

Recipients of the 4th Annual Peter Benchley Ocean Award


May 21, 2011

Cocktail Reception & Awards Ceremony
5 – 7 PM
George Washington University Marvin Center
800 21st Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20052

Celebration Dinner & Entertainment
7 – 10 PM
Carnegie Institution for Science
1530 P Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005

View a slideshow of photos from the Awards



Recipients&Ps About

Excellence in Science
Dr. Steve Palumbi
For his work using genetic technologies to improve marine conservation
Presented by Dr. Jeremy Jackson

Excellence in Policy
Admiral Thad Allen
For his work on U.S. Arctic and Ocean Policy and Disaster Response Leadership
Presented by Dr. Jane Lubchenco

Excellence in Solutions
Dr. Greg Stone
For his work establishing the Phoenix Islands Protected Area
Presented by Brian Skerry

Excellence in Media
Juliet Eilperin
For her ocean reporting in the Washington Post
Presented by Louie Psihoyos

Youth Activism
Rudy Sanchez
For his work to reduce plastic pollution of our coasts and ocean
Presented by Kyle Thiermann

Hero of the Seas
Kathy Fletcher
For her career leading People for Puget Sound
Presented by Cynthia Sarthou

Excellence in National Stewardship of the Ocean
President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica

For expanded protection of the waters around Cocos Island
Presented in collaboration with the Embassy of Costa Rica and MarViva
on Friday, May 20, 2011
at the Enrique V. Iglesias Conference Center
at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C.

The 4th annual awards took place around BVS3. Award events started Friday afternoon at the Inter-American Development Bank with the special presentation of the Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in National Stewardship of the Ocean to President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica. Among the 250 guests were Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Inter-American Development Bank president and host Luis Alberto Moreno. Also there were representatives from MarViva, the regional citizens group that helped inspire President Chinchilla to expand the marine protection zone around the world-famous Coco Island National Park. The award sparked widespread coverage in Costa Rica and an editorial in the Tico Times over who should pay the cost of protecting the new reserve. day 2 - saturdayIMG_900205212011

Saturday at the Marvin Center concluded with the 4th Annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards MCed by “her deepness” Dr. Sylvia Earle. This year’s winners of Manta Awards designed by marine artist Wyland and handed out by Wendy Benchley and myself included Dr. Steve Palumbi for science, Admiral Thad Allen (USCG ret.) for policy, Dr. Greg Stone for solutions, Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post for media, youth winner Rudy Sanchez and Hero of the Seas Kathy Fletcher, founder of People for Puget Sound.

The awards dinner that followed included a brief discussion between Sylvia Earle, Jane Lubchenco, Thad Allen, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and marine biologist Sandra Whitehouse on where they’d like to see our public seas in 10 years and how we get there. Asked to cite one of their favorite moments in the sea Thad Allen gave a typically brusque but honest answer, “Diving in the Galapagos with my son and 100 sea lions.” Click here for photos from the events.


While there are several prestigious environmental awards in the world, until recently no high-profile awards specifically acknowledged the broad range of achievement in the ocean and coastal community. The Peter Benchley Ocean Awards fills this gap, creating a kind of Academy Awards for those who act on behalf of our seas. They provide a way to celebrate outstanding achievements that lead to the protection of our ocean, coasts and the communities that depend on them.

The award statues feature three manta rays and were designed expressly for the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards by marine artist Wyland. The statue commemorates a dive that Peter Benchley experienced in the early 1980s and that inspired his book, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez.

This year’s Award Categories include: Science, Policy, Solutions, Media, Youth Activist and Hero of the Seas. Given Blue Frontier Campaign’s mission to “raise awareness of the solution-oriented seaweed (marine grassroots) community”, the Hero of the Seas Award will continue to raise the profile of a deserving but under-acknowledged grassroots leader.

We feel these awards are an opportunity for leaders involved in different aspects and sectors of ocean and coastal work to meet together and come to know each other and celebrate what we have accomplished and the wonders of our blue world.

The first awards were given at the 2004 Blue Vision Conference in Washington, D.C. where Peter Benchley gave the keynote speech. After he passed away, his wife Wendy Benchley agreed to let Blue Frontier title the next awards, held at the Blue Vision Summit in 2009, in his honor. Wendy is a grassroots environmental activist and she and Peter worked together for most of their 43 years of marriage on ocean conservation issues. She is honored that Blue Frontier established awards in Peter’s name and is pleased that these awards have now become an annual event.

The 4th Annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards Committee is comprised of David Helvarg (Blue Frontier Campaign), Wendy Benchley (Marine conservationist), Jim Toomey (Sherman’s Lagoon cartoonist) and Nancy Knowlton (Scripps Institution of Oceanography marine biologist and past Benchley recipient).


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