Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

  • 25 November 2015

Alum Dr Alasdair Harris receives WWF's 2015 Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award

Dr Alasdair Harris, a graduate of the Environmental Change Institute's Masters course, has received WWF's 2015 Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award in recognition of his contribution to marine conservation.

This award – WWF's most prestigious - highlights the extraordinary effort that Alasdair is taking to work with local people to restore marine habitats and coral reefs and at the same time promote sustainable livelihoods through community-based conservation.

Alasdair is founder of Blue Ventures, a marine conservation organisation centred on Madagascar and with a growing international presence. Blue Ventures works with coastal communities, government partners and NGOs to demonstrate the importance of coastal and marine conservation for food security and livelihoods. BV's innovative strategies to rebuild tropical fisheries through supporting the creation of locally managed marine areas have brought tangible benefits to many communities, particularly in Madagascar and Belize, and these strategies are now being replicated across other areas of the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Upon receiving the award Alasdair Harris said 'For the hundreds of millions of people who depend on life in our tropical seas for food and income, sustainable fisheries are a matter of survival. This award recognises the growing grassroots movement working to mobilise communities throughout the tropics to protect our seas by demonstrating that marine conservation makes compelling economic sense'.

Dr Harris was one of two winners of the 2015 Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award. The other, Alifereti Tawake, runs the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas Network. Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF International commented “Both winners demonstrate by working with communities, businesses and governments, we can solve the biggest challenges facing our marine environment. Their ability to combine marine science with local knowledge to create practical solutions exemplify WWF's global marine conservation work. Through their leadership and vision, they are demonstrating how community-based conservation efforts can improve and sustain livelihoods.

The award was presented by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh during a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace this week. It is the second time that Alasdair has received an award from The Duke. In 2002 he presented him with the British Sub Aqua Club Medal, the world's most prestigious award for underwater exploration (Alasdair was the youngest ever recipient).

In between these two awards Dr Harris and Blue Ventures have received an increasingly impressive collection of accolades including: Global Youth Travel Award (2015), Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2015), St Andrews Prize for the Environment (2014), Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning Award (2013), Tusk Awards for Conservation (2013), Buckminster Fuller Challenge (2011) and IUCN Young Conservationist Award (2010).

Alasdair Harris joins at least three other Oxford alumni to have received the WWF award including Sir Julian Huxley (1970, its first year), Max Nicholson (1982), and Norman Myers (1983).

This award highlights the extraordinary effort the winners are taking to support local communities in rebuilding fish populations, which have fallen by 50 per cent globally over the last 40 years


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