Wendy Benchley, Award Co-Founder

Wendy Benchley is a renowned global voice for protecting sharks and safeguarding our seas. As a scuba diver for more than forty years, she has witnessed dramatic changes to our ocean’s wildlife and its habitats. This has motivated her vigorous efforts to help shape smarter, stronger environmental and marine policies with government officials, NGOs and other civic leaders.

Wendy co-founded the prestigious Peter Benchley Ocean Awards,™ an annual award honoring her late husband’s legacy, in order to shine a light on the exceptional conservation work being done by marine scientists, researchers, explorers, and policy makers both in the United States and internationally. Now in its ninth year, the Benchley’s have awarded nearly sixty-five honorees for excellence and achievement.

Wendy was the 2014 recipient of the International SeaKeepers Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given annually to an individual or an organization that has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to ocean conservation. Click here to see a video tribute.

Based in Washington, D.C., Wendy is actively engaged in the marine policy community and supports many of the world’s leading ocean & environmental philanthropies.  As President of the Board of Shark Savers, she was instrumental in merging the organization into WildAid. She plays a prominent leadership role and is actively involved, as a Board member, in WildAid’s highly effective and widely respected global work that reduces the demand for illegal wildlife products, including ivory, rhino horn and shark fin.

She is an Advisory Board member of Ocean Champions, a non-profit political organization that supports pro-ocean Congressional candidates and lobbies members of Congress on behalf of the oceans, and also a Board Member of Blue Frontier, a grassroots group that builds the solution-oriented citizen engagement needed to protect our ocean, coasts and the communities, both human and wildlife that depend on them.

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Wendy worked on many environmental issues as a trustee of Environmental Defense Fund. She is currently a Trustee on EDF’s Advisory Board.

Wendy started her environmental and political career in the '70's in her home state of New Jersey as a co-founder and Trustee of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.  She was elected to the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders and was elected as a Princeton Borough Councilwoman for three terms. Among many legislative accomplishments, she worked on smart growth and sustainability issues, playing a leadership role in bringing to fruition a prize-winning downtown development and expanding affordable housing. 

Click to hear more about Wendy’s ocean conservation work.  


David Helvarg, Award Co-Founder

David Helvarg is co-founder of the Peter Benchley Ocean awards, Executive Director of Blue Frontier Campaign, and an author. He is editor of the Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide and the executive producer of the “Blue Vision Summit”, a high-level gathering of ocean activists, marine scientists and policy-makers held biennially in Washington, D.C. He is an award-winning journalist, who worked as a war correspondent in Northern Ireland and Central America, covered a range of issues from military science to the AIDS epidemic, and reported from every continent including Antarctica.

David has produced more than forty broadcast documentaries for PBS, The Discovery Channel, and others. His print work has appeared in publications and online including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Popular Science, Sierra, Parade Magazine; his reporting has taken him to every continent including Antarctica. His books include: Blue Frontier, The War Against the Greens, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, Rescue Warriors, Saved by the Sea, and his latest, The Golden Shore - California’s Love Affair with the Sea, now out in paperback. David is a licensed Private Investigator, avid body-surfer, and accomplished scuba diver.