December 13, 2023 ǀ In November it was time for the Earthshot Prize. 15 finalists celebrated in Singapore their ambitions and innovations to save our earth.
“The Earth is at a tipping point. We face a stark choice: either we continue as we are and irreparably damage our planet, or we remember our unique power as humans and our continual ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve. People can achieve great things. The next ten years present us with one of our greatest tests – a decade of action to repair the Earth.” Prince William, Founder and President of the Earthshot Prize.
The Earthshot Prize consists of five categories. This years winners are:
- Protect and restore nature: Acción Andina, The Andes Mountains
- Clean our air: GRST, Hong Kong, China
- Revive our oceans: WildAid Marine Programme, Global
- Build a wast-free world: S4S Technologies, India
- Fix our climate: Boomitra, Global
Every year over the course of this critical decade, five winners with the best chance of helping to achieve the five Earthshots will be awarded £1 million each to scale their solutions, with all 15 finalists receiving tailored support from global alliance of partners. This year the award ceremony was held in Singapore.
Winner “Revive our ocans”: WildAid
Meeting the global ‘30 by 30’ target of safeguarding 30% of oceans by 2030 is crucial to protecting our environment and will not occur without effective enforcement of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). However, nearly 60% of these MPAs have been unable to fully protect the ecosystems under their control due to enforcement challenges. WildAid is leading a bold initiative to ensure these zones and the sustainable fisheries within them deliver on their conservation promise.
Oceans cover more than 70% of the planet and are home to an enormous range of biodiversity. They also support many millions of people who rely upon fishing for their livelihoods. However, unsustainable overfishing threatens both ocean life and the people who rely on it, and $23 billion is lost annually to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Due to a dramatic increase in unsustainable fishing over the past half century, the UN estimates one-third of the world’s fisheries have been pushed beyond their biological limits.
Faced with disaster, governments have taken steps to protect marine ecosystems by promoting sustainable fishing and designating 15,000 special zones — MPAs — where human activity is strictly regulated. If these regulations are followed, scientists predict critical ocean life within the MPAs would be restored. And while these MPAs cover only 8 percent of oceans, they mark an important start. Without enforcement of these protected areas, however, many countries lack the resources required to achieve real conservation impact.
Exchanging knowledge and tailoring individual actions
WildAid, a global conservation non-profit, has a plan to bolster the effectiveness of MPAs and sustainable fisheries through its Marine Programme. Led by Meaghan Brosnan, the programme unites a range of partners — from governments to charities to non-profits and academics — to exchange knowledge and tailor actions for each region. Its approach builds law enforcement capacity by making sure people have the tools, technology and resources needed to deter illegal fishing, allow wildlife to recover and improve coastal community livelihoods.
“The creation of MPAs and sustainable fisheries is an important step in protecting the world’s oceans. Yet, many countries struggle to make these protections a reality. At WildAid, our Marine program is an answer to this problem. By encouraging collaboration, sharing proven strategies, and bringing together a passionate community of ocean conservationists, we’re not only fulfilling the potential of MPAs but also sparking a worldwide movement for ocean protection. We are grateful to The Earthshot Prize for recognising our efforts.”, say Meaghan Brosnan, Chief Operating Officer of WildAid.
The programme, currently working with a significant proportion of already established MPAs and fisheries management areas, covers an estimated 1.64 million square kilometres of ocean. With operations in Palau, Zanzibar, Mexico and beyond, WildAid is championing and strengthening ocean conservation in every corner of the globe. And with a target to grow to 250 priority marine areas in the next five years, it’s just getting started.