2018 - The Peter Benchley Ocean Awards Will Be Retired


After a highly successful decade, the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards™ will be retired, said co-founders, Wendy Benchley and David Helvarg

The Awards were founded on the idea that individuals across every field of marine discipline are doing outstanding work—providing solutions to the challenges faced by our ocean, coastlines, and wildlife—and they need to be acknowledged and honored. 

We believe the work and leadership of our Benchley Award winners has helped propel a significant upsurge in support and momentum for ocean conservations around the globe. Their commitment to ocean excellence will continue to make our wondrous blue planet a safer, more resilient home for nature and humanity for generations to come.


2017 Annual Peter Benchley™ Ocean Award Winners Announced

A brief overview of our 2017 award winner’s outstanding ocean conservation accomplishments follows:

2017 Excellence in National Stewardship

Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries


Susi Pudjiastuti, the Republic of Indonesia’s Minister of Marine Affairs, was appointed by President Joko Widodo in 2014. Minister Susi has aggressively protected her nation’s economic and environmental interests by targeting the multi-billion dollar pirate fishing operations of foreign fleets. She has courageously and audaciously led the blowing up and sinking of more than 200 illegal fishing boats caught poaching— a strong deterrent to organized crime efforts that have invaded and overfished Indonesia’s biologically rich waters for years. She has been instrumental in the freeing of slave crews held on many of these foreign vessels, and she’s led the freeing of illegally trapped whale sharks.  Her work has proved vital to protecting Indonesia’s unique and world-famous marine ecosystem while also providing important economic benefits and sustaining the livelihoods of tens of thousands of domestic fishermen, their families and their communities.

2017 Excellence in Science

Dr. Ben Halpern


Dr. Halpern is a Professor of Marine Ecology and Conservation Planning at UC Santa Barbara. He is renowned for research that analyzes a broad range of complex questions spanning local to global scales, spatial population dynamics, food web interactions, and conservation planning for ocean and freshwater ecosystems, with the primary goal of informing and facilitating effective ocean conservation and resource management. Specifically, he has led and participated in several groundbreaking research projects that have advanced our understanding of the state of the world’s oceans and the potential for marine reserves to improve ocean condition, including the development and mapping of cumulative impact assessments and as the lead scientist for the Ocean Health Index project.

2017 Excellence in Science

Dr. Ussif Rashid Sumaila


Photo: Martin Dee

Dr. Sumaila is Professor and Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia. He received his Ph.D. from Bergen University, Norway, and holds a B.Sc. with honors from Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria. Dr. Sumaila is deeply interested in how economics, through integration with ecology and other disciplines, can be used to help ensure that ocean resources are sustainably managed for the benefit of both current and future generations. His key recent contributions include 1) applying game theory to fisheries; 2) rethinking the nature of the discount rates applied in marine resource valuations, and formulating a highly original alternative, i.e., “intergeneration discount rates” 3) understanding the nature, amounts and effects of government subsidies on global fisheries 4) estimating the multiple benefits that would be obtained globally by rebuilding fish stocks and setting up marine reserves, including conceiving of the High Seas as a large marine reserve. His work is highly regarded by policy makers at the highest levels, resulting in invitations to give talks at the United Nations, the White House, the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, the African Union, the British House of Lords, and the Canadian Parliament.

2017 Excellence in Policy

US Senator, Richard Blumenthal


Senator Blumenthal is a lifelong law enforcement leader and strong proponent for consumer protections, environmental stewardship, and labor rights. He was an early and outspoken voice in calling for the designation of the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts area as a marine national monument, the first in the Atlantic, to provide refuge to a myriad of unique species, to conserve a vital and productive ecosystem, and to help fuel many parts of New England’s economy. On September 15, 2016, President Obama designated the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which protects 4,913 square miles of ocean from Maine to New York (home to 25 million people), phases out commercial fishing, and prohibits other extractive activities such as mining and drilling. He sits of the Senate Committee for Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over a wide-ranging portfolio and plays a pivotal role in American business and addressing the important issue of climate change.

2017 Excellence in Policy

US Senator, Brian Schatz


Senator Schatz grew up in Hawai‘i where he developed a true passion and reverence for the ocean. Upon taking office in 2012, he made protecting the ocean one of his top priorities. In June 2016, he sent a proposal to President Barak Obama to expand Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument ten years after President George W. Bush signed the executive order establishing its original boundaries. That expansion made it the largest permanent conservation area in the world. Senator Schatz is an active member of two Senate committees with primary jurisdiction over the oceans. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, he has helped develop and pass legislation to address toxic algae and dead zones, pirate fishing, coral reef conservation and seafood fraud. On the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has fought to ensure funding for important initiatives to study, protect, and restore the ocean, coasts and communities that depend on them.

2017 Excellence in Media

One World One Ocean



Educating the public to the challenges our ocean planet faces is a daunting task. That is why the One World One Ocean media campaign was launched in 2011 to bring even greater focus and advocacy on behalf of the ocean through the IMAX films that MacGillivray Freeman Films has been making for over 40 years. One World One Ocean has been dedicated to supporting and extending the reach and messaging of the Ocean based IMAX documentaries and their accompanying educational programming utilized in more than 200 IMAX Science Museum Theaters and aquariums in over 30 countries. The IMAX film experience is a powerful platform for larger than life storytelling, and for many of the more than 20 million people worldwide who experience them, it is the most visceral underwater ocean experience they may ever have. One World One Ocean is committed to the long-term release of its films and outreach programming across every platform including social media. With an overarching goal of continually reminding the public that healthy oceans are essential for life on earth, their campaign goals are focused on building public awareness around three key ocean issues including getting people to eat sustainable seafood, reducing plastic pollution, and expanding ocean protected areas to at least 10 percent of the ocean.

2017 Excellence in Solutions

Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Planning Team & The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Regional Planning Bodies


To fully utilize and protect the ocean requires good planning which is why this year’s Solutions Award is going to three model programs that engage a wide range of ocean stakeholders including state, federal and tribal ocean resource managers to better understand, map and make use of our public seas for all citizens.  Understanding our marine ecosystems and how they function and applying that shared knowledge to permitting and planning processes allows not only for better common allocation of public waters but reduces conflicts between different users in fisheries, marine farming, shipping and ports, offshore clean energy, national defense and marine parks, wildlife and habitat. These collaborative efforts have focused on identifying and carrying out best practices for early coordination in decision-making; developing, sharing, and using new and better ocean data; and implementing interjurisdictional coordination actions that address priority opportunities and challenges in each region. Most importantly, they are enabling us for the first time ever to make smarter, better coordinated planning decisions for long-term enhancement of our shared ocean resources, including fisheries stocks, transportation channels, and the leasing, permitting and development of offshore energy projects. That is why our awardees include three widely-admired planning bodies: the ocean SAMP team in Rhode Island and two ocean policy planning bodies in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic that were established under the U.S. National Ocean Policy of 2010.  Each of these three groups has produced landmark ocean plans that will benefit all users and provide excellent models for other states and regions to engage in smart ocean planning.  Ultimately, they are proving that securing our ocean future in a collaborative way is not only possible, but the best way forward.

2017 Christopher Benchley Youth Award

Carter and Olivia Ries


At the very young age of 7 and 8, this Georgia based brother and sister duo were motivated to start a ‘company’ that could help protect endangered species. The sight of sea turtles covered in oil and suffering due to the BP spill drove them to tears and into action—collecting and delivering much needed supplies to animal cleaning stations down in the Gulf. It was during this ocean clean-up adventure that they learned about the devastating impacts of plastic on ocean wildlife. This inspired them to create an award winning plastic pollution curriculum that is has been adopted nationwide and is currently being tested for distribution in the UK, Australia, and South Africa. Each time Olivia and Carter learned about the fate of threatened animals they were moved by despair and dreams of keeping them safe, so the emotional response ‘OMG’ seemed to be the perfect battle cry and foundation for their organization. ‘One More Generation,’ (OMG) is a 501 c3 they formed with their dad to help protect endangered species for the next generation of children to experience. Now 14 and 16, these young activists have spent more than half their lives committed to raising awareness and making big waves of change for ocean conservation.

2017 Hero of the Seas

Robin Alden / Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries


Robin Alden, is the Founding Executive Director of the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries (MCCF), Maine’s center for coastal fisheries based in Stonington, Maine. She co-founded the organization in 2003 with a vision of collaboration—doing the education, collaborative research and policy to bring together the knowledge and expertise of fishermen, scientists, and policy makers in the shared management of Maine’s coastal fisheries.  MCCF’s focus is the most fishery dependent area of New England - the 150 miles of Maine coast from the Penobscot Estuary, east to the Canada’s Maritime Provinces and it works at state, regional and national levels to achieve its goals. Robin credits the urgent threat of climate change as an ironic motivator for spurring local, state and federal regulators to adopt new, more collaborative approaches to managing fisheries that include local fisherman and their unique knowledge in making tough, informed decisions. Under Robin’s direction, MCCFs innovative approach is internationally recognized as a model for sustainable fisheries. Robin has pursued this vision throughout her career: founding a regional fisheries newspaper, founding and running Maine Fishermen’s Forum, and as Maine Commissioner of Marine Resources. She is a recipient of the White House Champion of Change for Sustainable Fisheries.

Honored for Sustained Ocean Achievement

Joshua S. Reichert and the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Ocean Group


For almost three decades, Dr. Reichert, and the Oceans Group of the Pew Charitable Trusts, have relentlessly focused their attention on pushing decision-makers to protect the world’s oceans. The Group is known for its willingness to tackle large problems, incur significant risk, and pursue bold strategies in search of solutions to some of the most urgent problems facing life in the sea. These include overfishing, the absence of adequate enforcement systems needed to deter illegal fishing; the widespread use of dirty gear, such as bottom trawls and pelagic longlines that results in the catch of fish, seabirds, turtles, marine mammals, and other ocean life that are thrown back dead or dying into the sea because they are not what fishermen are targeting. In addition, Dr. Reichert and the Pew Oceans Group have provided key leadership in a host of environmental initiatives including transitioning fisheries management from a focus on individual species to entire ecosystems in which fish and other marine life reside;  creation of the world’s largest network of marine parks; as well as strengthening the system of fisheries management in the European Union, and the United States by mandating an end to overfishing. Photo © OCEANA/Melissa Forsyth



Peter Benchley Ocean Awards

Monaco’s Prince Albert II Honored for Ocean Work

Washington Post
Wendy Benchley and Prince Albert II of Monaco.
(Photo by Jeffrey Dubinsky for the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards)

Even in a town full of titles (how many deputy undersecretaries does one government really need?), a moniker like “his serene highness” gets attention. And so on Thursday night, the audience—which included a smattering of senators and other bigwigs—listened as Monaco’s Prince Albert II spoke after accepting a top honor at the annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, named after the creator of “Jaws.” The one-time bad boy bachelor has morphed into a downright proper royal, complete with a pair of just christened twins who’ve ensured his family’s line of succession in his bite-sized nation, devotion to environmental causes, and a knack for sweeping but soft-spoken oratory. “Oceans, in their beauty and mystery, unite human beings whatever their situation, nationality, or faith,” he said in his acceptance speech. We caught up with HSH briefly at the dinner following the awards at the Carnegie Institute for Science, where he munched on herbed risotto (definitely no Chilean sea bass for this bunch) and huddled with Benchley’s widow, Wendy Benchley. One question for the prince: What’s the obsession with royal babies about?

Monaco's Prince Albert was honored at the Benchley Ocean Awards at the Carnegie Institution for his work in marine scientific expeditions on the ocean’s pressing challenges. Jeffrey Dubinsky Prince Albert is the only Head of State ever to travel to both poles. He's with Wendy Benchley, an ocean conservation and policy advocate, who co-founded the awards with Blue Frontier author David Helvarg in honor of her husband, Jaws author and oceans activist Peter Benchley; they've become the Academy Awards for the ocean.


(Photo by Jeffrey Dubinsky for the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards)

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle presented the Youth Award to Madison Pip Stewart, an ocean activist since the age of 8, when she started protecting sharks near her Australian home through a petition to get rid of shark killer nets. She's the subject of the Smithsonian documentary Shark Girl. After a reception and awards ceremony, guests enjoyed a sold-out gala dinner. Read more...

David Helvarg, Wendy Benchley, and Senator Ed Markey.
(Photo by Tony Powell. 2015 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards. Carnegie Institution for Science. May 14, 2015)


Roger and Vicki Sant, Shari Sant Plummer and Daniel Plummer.
(Photo by Tony Powell. 2015 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards. Carnegie Institution for Science. May 14, 2015)


A Whale of an Event with Real Royalty

Wendy Benchley (center) chats with H.S.H Prince Albert II and at left her granddaughter Kate Turner

Georgetown Dish
Wendy Benchley (center) chats with H.S.H Prince Albert II and at left her granddaughter Cate Turner.
(Photo by Jeffrey Dubinsky for the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards)

H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco took a day or two away from his royal twins to travel to Washington to personally receive a Peter Benchley Ocean Award at a ceremony that drew 300+ invited guests on Thursday night.


Sen. Ed Markey presenting Secretary of State John Kerry's award to undersecretary Catherine Novelli

Sen. Ed Markey presenting Secretary of State John Kerry's award to undersecretary Catherine Novelli.
(Photo by Jeffrey Dubinsky for the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards)

For his leadership to save the seas, Prince Albert was honored with the “Excellence in National Stewardship of the Ocean.” The award was presented by Dr.  Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and founder of The Pristine Seas project.

The Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, now in its 8th year, was founded by Wendy Benchley and David Helvarg, author and executive director of the Blue Frontier. The world’s preeminent ocean honors are named after the late author of “Jaws” and lifelong marine conservationist Peter Benchley. This time Jaws lives on with a touch of royalty. Prince Albert had an especially busy week but was relaxed and affable during a full day of speaking activities discussing environmental subjects, first at the National Geographic, then in the evening going over to the Carnegie Institution for Science for the Benchley awards. The Prince  lingered at the VIP reception, which was packed with ocean advocates from Hawaii, British Columbia, Australia, California, North and South Carolina to Massachusetts, and the list goes on.


Monaco's Prince Albert II flanked by Dr. Sylvia Earle & Dr. Enric Sala

Monaco's Prince Albert II flanked by Dr. Sylvia Earle and Dr. Enric Sala.
(Photo by Jeffrey Dubinsky for the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards)

“The world needs your passion and your energy,” Prince Albert told the National Geographic audience. Too often, he said, “we don’t put a street light at a crossing until there’s been an accident. We don’t want to get to that point for the oceans.” On Sunday, May 10, Prince Albert and his wife, Princess Charlene, baptized their 5-month-old twins in services in Monaco.

Still another top award recipient was Secretary of State John F. Kerry, honored for Excellence in Policy.  Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts presented the award.  Kerry was in the air over one ocean or another at the time of the ceremony, Markey noted.  So, his award was accepted on his behalf by Catherine A. Novelli, Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and The Environment. Dr. Enric Sala had a succinct way of how to save the oceans: “Eat more vegetables!”


8th Annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, 2015
Press Release

Coastal Review Online

The Economist

The National Geographic Society


To contact Co-Founder, Wendy Benchley, please email Wendy's Executive Assistant Mary Fritz, mary@wendybenchley.com

To contact Co-Founder, David Helvarg, please email, helvarg@bluefront.org