Blue Nonprofit Award Finalists
The Blue Business of the Year Award recognizes a business that has made outstanding contributions toward promoting and encouraging conservation, restoration, or preservation of marine life and/or marine ecosystems through their business practices, products or technology.
Award Recipient - American Shark Conservancy
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
The American Shark Conservancy (ASC) is a local nonprofit organization based in Palm Beach County, Florida, that actively addresses threats to vulnerable shark species through inclusive and innovative research and outreach efforts. This organization takes real action to ensure a better future for our oceans and is building a community of well-informed stewards.
Their research questions and methods are designed to consider how the data will support science-based conservation policies. ASC’s main project is researching the poorly studied recreational shark fishery in Florida, specifically the shore-based shark fishery. ASC is often the first organization that is called when the public has a conservation concern about sharks. Three years ago, ASC received many messages from concerned citizens about dead hammerhead sharks, a species recently categorized as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, that were found on the beaches early in the morning and the suspected culprit may have been interactions with recreational shore-based fishing. ASC met directly with members of the public, local and city officials as well as members of FWC marine management and with the some of the Commissioners. ASC staff attended 7 of 10 workshops held throughout the state to learn firsthand about the fishery and the stakeholders. It became clear that there was very little information about the fishery, including the who, how, why, and where of the fishing efforts, or the impact of catch and release fishing on great hammerheads. ASC proposed a project to answer these questions and was awarded funding through the Save Our Seas Foundation’s Keystone Grant. So, ASC is the first, female-led team to work with volunteer anglers to tag their catches with satellite tags that will determine whether the shark lives or dies after release. They are working with the anglers to also determine what factors could increase the chances of these vulnerable species’ survival. The project is also contributing information to the upcoming stock assessment of the hammerheads to be completed by NOAA Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Division experts. ASC has conducted the first angler survey that is characterizing the fishery, describing the catches, the types of equipment used, how often anglers fish for sharks from shore, all incredibly important details to be considered for future regulations. By ASC working with the anglers, involving them in the process of developing the research, they are more likely to buy-in to the results and share knowledge that will influence better behaviors. They are continuing their work with the shore-based anglers, searching for continued funding and planning on expanding the research to investigate the impacts of boat-based shark fishing on hammerheads and other valued and vulnerable species. ASC maintains a strong relationship with the FWC Regional Biologists and Regional Director to make sure the research closes any gaps in knowledge for the management of the fisheries.
ASC also conducts long-term monitoring of the shark populations off the coast of Florida by collaborating with the dive community, another important user group for this area. ASC uses non-invasive techniques to record the diversity, abundance, distribution, and seasonality of vulnerable shark species like lemon, dusky, sandbar and silky sharks. Joining charter boats on their dives, ASC staff collects environmental data and biological data on any shark they see throughout the year, measuring them with paired-laser photogrammetry contraption that projects 2 laser dots on the side of the animal at a fixed distance apart and the camera captures the image, allowing for an accurate measurement of the shark in a simple computer program. This methodology is simple, allowing the public to directly participate in the data collection. Everyone gets excited when they start talking about sharks with lasers! These data are contributing to a better understanding of how these sharks use our Florida coastline, interact, and compete with each other and other predators, and how us humans may be impacting their behaviors. This is another example of how ASC develops projects that directly contribute to conservation policies and regulations.
ASC isn’t just about the science or being in the ivory tower of academia. ASC believes that the science doesn’t matter unless you share it and encourage critical thinking, science literacy and environmental stewardship. Before the pandemic, ASC team members could be found at community events along the entire east coast of Florida, teaching anyone who was in earshot about the importance of sharks and how people can get involved. ASC has presented at dive clubs, nature centers, schools, scientific conferences, conventions throughout the state of Florida. Through their partnership with the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, ASC has given talks to the GEMS Club (Girls Excelling at Math and Science), have been STEM mentors, talked to seniors at the Silver Science Night, hosted the educational programs throughout Shark Preservation Week. Since the onset of social distancing policies, ASC has quickly adapted and has held multiple online presentations each month. These presentations cover topics on biology and ecology, there are conversation with friends like Cristina Zenato, and what it is like to be a scientist that studies sharks. These videos are available for anyone to watch on their YouTube channel and they created lots of fun and educational materials for young marine biologists which are available on their website and free to download. The ASC senior staff conducts continuing education and professional development courses for teachers and informal educators, like those at the Environmental Learning Center and Under Blue Water’s marine biology camps. ASC is also incredibly supportive of other small local groups, advising on the science and policy on state, federal and international levels. They are ready to share their limited resources, their time and knowledge to move any good project or initiative forward. They just successfully tagged a silky shark off the coast of Florida for a graduate student who was stuck in the Bahamas because of the pandemic, helping him to round out his fieldwork for his PhD. ASC is an outreach partner with Havenworth Coastal Conservation, helping to spread awareness about the plight of the endangered smalltooth sawfish.
ASC also promotes the recruitment and retention of women in STEM through their education, outreach and mentorship opportunities. The ASC internships have supported 6 undergraduate or early career female scientists in the past two years. These ladies have attended policy meetings, are involved in every aspect of the field work and are responsible for a large portion of the outreach efforts. The ASC Board Members Hannah Medd and Jill Brooks take so much pride in offering these opportunities to young women who are excited about a career in marine science and conservation. The interns attended FWC workshops and provided public comments on recommended scientific data that would support better policies. ASC supported the attendance of 2 of these young ladies at the scientific conference of the American Elasmobranch Society where they presented their first poster on the preliminary results of the survivability of great hammerheads released from shore.
ASC may focus mainly on sharks, but all their efforts are conducted in the broader context of conserving marine ecosystems for healthy oceans and they should be recognized for their tireless work.
To learn more, please check out their online presence:
Love The Oceans - Jangamo, Mozambique
|Love The Oceans prides itself on a holistic, community-led approach to coastal marine conservation in Mozambique, with the mission to establish a Marine Protected Area in the Jangamo district.
We work closely with the local community to transition the community away from unsustainable fishing practises towards a more sustainable way of living. We also do a lot of scientific research which feeds directly back into our community work and project development. Our work includes:
- fisheries research to assess sustainability of local fishing and monitor illegal poaching
- coral reef research to prove that what we have is worth protecting and steps need to be taken to protect this area
- humpback whale and megafauna research to prove we have high numbers of 'flagship' marine sp (inc. whales, dolphins, whale sharks, mantas and turtles), all with high eco-tourism value, providing an alternate and sustainable source of income to fishing
- ocean trash research to investigate where the beach trash is coming from and what we can do to reduce it and utilise it (upcycling into ecobricks).
We have 3 community outreach projects too:
- teaching swimming lessons to enable people to harness new job opportunities in the marine eco-tourism space (>95% of people cannot swim here), tackle drowning, encourage passion for the sea, and produce conservation ambassador swim instructors as part of our program.
- teaching basic marine resource management to 10-13 yr olds to educate the next generation of fishermen about sustainable fishing & living & the marine environment
- alternative livelihoods development enables members of the community to develop their own micro businesses that are sustainable, alleviating pressure off the oceans and alleviating poverty, giving people the financial luxury to live more sustainably.
In the 5 short years our project has been in existence we have:
- hosted 227 volunteers on site
- collected >1tonne of trash from the oceans & beaches
- created >150 ecobricks that have been used in local construction projects
- collected >85000 pieces of plastic from the beach
- completed >2310hrs of fisheries research
- completed > 312hrs of survey dives
- conducted 378 coral reef health surveys
- completed >185 hrs of megafauna surveys
- taught >851hrs of basic marine resource management to >1150 kids
- sponsored free school to >1500 kids
- taught >290hrs of swimming lessons to >800 kids
- qualified the first ever Mozambique STA swim teacher
- qualified 6 STA aquatic helpers
- been recognised as 1 of 15 global grassroots forces for change by the duke and duchess of sussex.
We're also working with Mission Blue to establish this area as a Hope Spot and we're working with the World Cetacean Alliance to establish this area as a Whale Heritage Site.
Pelagios Kakunjá - La Paz, México
Pelagios Kakunjá is a non-profit organization created in 2010 by Mexican scientists Dr. James Ketchum and Dr. Mauricio Hoyos. Our main goal is to study and protect sharks and mantas in Mexico, many of which are globally endangered, mainly due to overfishing. We aim to provide technical information for the regional management and implementation of conservation strategies for these species in Mexico.
Pelagios Kakunjá informed and designed the largest marine reserve in North America: the Revillagigedo National Park. Our studies showed that sharks moved well beyond the 6 nautical miles of protection around each island of the original Revillagigedo
Archipelago Biosphere Reserve, and between the islands. Using shark movements, we proposed an expansion to 40 nautical miles around each island, including a large rectangle (polygon) around the whole area, and recommended that to be a new marine protected area around the Revillagigedo Archipelago. The first design of the expanded marine reserve was proposed to the Mexican Commission of Natural Protected Areas in 2014 and included in the UNESCO Heritage site documentation in 2015. A group of lawyers in Mexico City (Beta Diversidad) and Pew Charitable Trusts carried out the policy work to push for the creation of the Revillagigedo National Park in 2017.
Pelagios Kakunjá´s scientific exploration, environmental education and conservation efforts are the guiding principles of our organization. In this sense, we strive to carry out all our work under such principles and with a collaborative approach. Hence, we imagine a future with a sustainable sea where science-based conservation is a fundamental piece.
All our staff are scientists that study sharks and mantas and are actively participating in gathering scientific information, crucial for our efforts to propose new marine protected areas or expand existing ones. We also have more than 25 bachelor’s, master’s and PhD students who are working on their specific research topics. Additionally, we carry out workshops and meetings with artisanal fishermen to involve them in all marine reserve design and projects on the conservation of sharks and pelagic fish.
We have deployed more than 600 acoustic and satellite transmitters on sharks and mantas in the Mexican Pacific and Gulf of California and have published over 60 scientific publications. This large number of tags and publications provided a wealth of information that have guided and supported the i) creation of the Revillagigedo National Park, ii) creation of a new marine protected area in the southwestern Gulf of California, and iii) creation of the corridors of protection for migratory species in the Mexican Pacific also known as the Mexican Migravias.
Perry J. Cohen Foundation - Tequesta, Florida
The Perry J. Cohen Foundation (PJCF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3), which was established by Perry’s mother, Pamela Cohen, and his stepfather, Nicholas Korniloff. The Foundation carries on Perry’s legacy by focusing on the advancement of certain components that he was passionate about: The arts, environmental, marine and wildlife education and preservation, teenage entrepreneurship, and boating safety education. The PJCF logo was created and generously donated by world renowned artist Shepard Fairey.
The PJCF has spearheaded fundraising efforts in raising $400K to create the Perry J. Cohen Wetlands Laboratory at Jupiter Community High School. The created wetlands habitat and working laboratory is backed by a certified Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) curriculum with instruction inside and outside the classroom under the name of the existing 13-year program at the school entitled the Jupiter Environmental and Research Field Studies Academy (JERFSA). The PCJF has transformed and developed the existing storm water retention pond into a created wetlands habitat by introducing the plant material most recognized as the five eco-zones of Florida. The created wetlands laboratory will be a template for outdoor classrooms within school campuses all over the Palm Beach County area. The outdoor classroom will be utilized by students throughout the entire school for research, scientific analysis, wetlands monitoring, and biology.
The PJCF currently provides Environmental Studies summer camp scholarships to underprivileged children, and in their first year and a half of operation, the foundation has funded and educated over 1,000 individuals through “About Boating Safety” classes through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
In addition, the PJCF partnered with the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens this past season to present Plastic Reef by Federico Uribe on the main lawn of the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens directly across from the Intracoastal Waterway. This partnership created Plastic Reef especially for the Gardens using recycled materials from the ocean. Uribe’s artwork was so dramatic and physically large, set in its own tent on the lawn, over 10,000 visitors and school children were reminded of our responsibility to keep our waters clean.
“My art is inspired from nature related subjects,” said Uribe. “This garden inside a garden is a reflection of the beauty being taken from coral reefs because of the all the garbage that is disposed into the sea each day. Being in this garden is a beautiful experience for me to showcase my work and spotlight the importance of environmental preservation, linking the missions of the Perry J. Cohen Foundation and the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.”