National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to Honor Ocean Champions at 16th Annual Ocean Awards Gala

Washington, DC – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced its 2018 Ocean Awards Gala honorees: Gordon and Betty Moore will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award; the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) will receive the Conservation Innovation Award; and, Will Benson will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award. Honorees will accept their awards at the gala on June 5, 2018 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.

“We are proud to honor Gordon and Betty Moore, the BBC and Will Benson for their commitment to ocean conservation,” said Kris Sarri, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “Their steadfast commitment to using sound science to drive conservation results and strengthening ocean stewardship through partnerships instills optimism in all of us working to protect our blue planet.”

Photo courtesy of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledges individuals who are making an exceptional impact on ocean science, conservation or policy. For the better part of two decades, Gordon and Betty Moore have provided critical leadership on environmental conservation and science. They do not shy away from tackling large-scale issues to make a measurable impact for protecting our ocean. Through their foundation’s work on scientific discovery, on-the-water conservation programs and using financial markets to support conservation, they are driving the innovation that is necessary to sustain our planet for all living species. Specifically, the cutting-edge research supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through its Marine Microbiology Initiative improves understanding of the most basic building blocks in the ocean that support life on the planet. The Foundation’s Marine Conservation Initiative invests in creating more resilient ecosystems in the United States and Canada, helping to maintain biodiversity. And, its Ocean and Seafood Markets and Conservation and Finance Initiatives look at how incentives can help foster a more sustainable use of our environment.

“Through their philanthropy, Gordon and Betty Moore tackle important issues at a scale where significant and measurable impact can be achieved,” said Harvey Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “Recognizing that the oceans contain 97 percent of our planet’s water and represent 99 percent of its habitable space, the Moores have sought to conserve some of Earth’s critical marine ecosystems and advance understanding of the oceans through scientific discovery.”

The Conservation Innovation Award recognizes a company for its significant contributions to marine conservation and the protection of natural and cultural resources by supporting of sound science, exploration and/or innovative partnerships. James Honeyborne, Executive Producer for BBC Studio’s Natural History Unit, will accept the Conservation Innovation Award for the groundbreaking documentary series, Blue Planet II, on behalf of the BBC. Through science and new technology, Blue Planet II brings our ocean and the unique life it supports into the homes of millions across the world. Revolutionary technology allowed BBC to enter worlds and film behaviors never seen before. And, the series provides the compelling contemporary stories of how plastics contaminate our oceans and the profound impact climate change is having on it. By introducing viewers to amazing species and seascapes, and the challenges facing our ocean, BBC is inspiring new ocean guardians across our blue planet.

“On behalf of the whole Blue Planet II production team, we are honored to receive the Conservation Innovation award, said James Honeyborne, Executive Producer of Blue Planet II. “Blue Planet II set out to help connect the viewer to life beneath the waves, and to share in the wonder and excitement of exploring the planet’s last great frontier. But not only did we encounter new worlds and witness new behaviors, we also came face to face with the many impacts of humanity on marine life. And in order to complete our contemporary portrayal of the world’s oceans, we felt compelled to tell those powerful stories too.”

SAC member and 2017 Volunteer of the Year Will Benson, Sugarloaf Key fishing guide, owner of World Angling.
Credit: Gena Parsons/NOAA

The Volunteer of the Year Award is given for outstanding contribution in service at a national marine sanctuary; the recipient is chosen from the 14 honorees recognized each year by their individual sanctuaries. Will Benson, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s Volunteer of the Year, will receive this year’s national award. Will grew up fishing and diving in the waters of the Florida Keys, which nurtured his lifelong passion for the ocean. He works to build and strengthen partnerships between the recreational fishing community and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, increasing awareness about the sanctuary and the conservation benefit that this designation brings to both biodiversity and anglers. He is instrumental in connecting stakeholder groups through community efforts that unify them in efforts to work with the Sanctuary.  Through his work with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Sanctuary on the Blue Star Fishing Guides program, Will is shaping a recognition program that has the potential to reach thousands of visitors to national marine sanctuaries across the country.

The Ocean Awards Gala, hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, in conjunction with Capitol Hill Ocean Week, recognizes champions of marine and Great Lakes stewardship. Past honorees include President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, former First Lady Laura Bush, Members of Congress, leading scientists, philanthropists, explorers, and dedicated community volunteers. Individual tickets and table sponsorships for the Ocean Awards Gala are available at through May 25.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports America’s national marine sanctuaries through our mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems, and preserve America’s maritime heritage.  We accomplish our mission through on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs, and scientific research and exploration. The Foundation fosters innovative projects that are solution-oriented, scalable, and transferable, and develop strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats.