What do a West African president, a pair of scientists studying life in the ocean, a 20-year-old veteran of the 4-H Clubs, a Massachusetts Congressman running for a Senate seat and two California women who spent over a decade working to create underwater parks have in common? They‘re among the winners of this year’s top ocean honors, the 6th annualPeter Benchley Ocean Awards.
Named for the author ofJaws, the awards celebrate the life and legacy of Benchley, who, though many people are not aware of it, dedicated much of his life to the protection of sharks and the ocean ecosystems they are a part of. The awards, presented by the non-profit Blue Frontier Campaign and marine conservationist Wendy Benchley, celebrate exceptional efforts leading to the protection of our ocean, coasts, and the communities that depend on them.
The 32 recipients to date include: Presidents Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica and Anote Tong of Kiribati, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Academy Award-winning director Louie Psihoyos, Port of Los Angeles Director Geraldine Knatz, Retired Navy Captain Don Walsh, the late marine scientist Ram Myers, and the late New Jersey coastal activist Dery Bennett.
On May 15th, each winner will be presented with a Benchley Mantas award sculpture designed by famed marine artistWyland. Past Masters of Ceremony have included explorers Philippe Cousteau,Sylvia Earle, and syndicated Sherman’s Lagoon cartoonist Jim Toomey.
Christopher Benchley Youth Award – Sean Russell
As a high school intern at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, Sean Rusell became aware of the problem of marine plastic pollution. In response he founded “Stow It-Don’t Throw It,” a statewide monofilament fishing line recycling program and collaborative effort between youth and environmental groups that has since gone national. In 2011, with the help of Mote Marine Laboratory, Sean led the first Youth Ocean Conservation Summit held in Florida that has now become an annual event. He has also given countless hours to community service projects while serving as a member of the Florida 4-H Program. Twenty-year-old Sean is now a senior at the University of Florida.