Rocky Shores in Sodwana. Image: Adventure Mania Sodwana Bay.

MPA Day makes it to the Top 10 of the OceanLove Innovation Award 2024

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The winners of the inaugural OceanLove Innovation Award 2024 were unveiled on 19 June 2024 in a spectacular ceremony at the Oceanovation Festival, The Hague, with South Africa’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Day making it into the Top 10.

The submitted ideas were assessed based on several criteria including originality, impact, reach and feasibility. Out of 85 applications from 38 countries, the panel of judges, chaired by Sian Owen, Executive Director of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, selected the finalists and winner which were submitted from Brazil, Colombia, Morocco and South Africa.

During the ceremony, the awards were handed by keynote speaker Liz Taylor, president of marine technology company DOER Marine, and daughter of legendary, world-renowned marine biologist and oceanographer, Dr Sylvia Earle.

In 7th place was South Africa’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Day, an annual event held on 1 August to raise awareness about MPAs. The event was started by a consortium of South African organisations, all passionate about the protection of marine life with the aim to connect people all over the world in the protection of marine life.

“The whole MPA Day team is delighted to have placed in the top 10 of the prestigious OceanLove Innovation Award where we’re sitting alongside other dynamic innovators who all share the same call to protect our ocean,” said Dr Judy Mann, Founder of MPA Day, and the Executive of Strategic Projects at The Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation.

“Awards such as these are important for elevating the awareness around the plight of our ocean while giving people practical solutions for how they can help. Ocean conservation is a collaborative effort, and we’re proud to be part of this group of OceanLove innovators who are making a real impact, now.”

Top 5 in the 2024 OceanLove Innovation Award

Winner #5: “Guardians of the Sacred Waters” by Tom Wheeler, Treesistance (Brazil)

Awarded grant: 1,000 Euro

Guardians of the Sacred Waters is a new Indigenous led protection and prevention model, coordinated between the European Crime prevention team and the leaders of the Lower Tapajos. The initiative is an expansion of a previous award winning pilot project on protecting the forests, which now aims to apply the tested approach to safeguarding the river ecosystem of the precious water territories in the Amazon. Using a blend of traditional wisdom and modern technology, they are taking a stand against water-based environmental crimes.

Winner #4: “Alternative fuels from seaweed” by Johannes Bochdalofsky, SeaH4 (South Africa)

Awarded grant: 2,500 Euro

Johannes Bochdalofsky proposed an innovative solution using seaweed and green hydrogen to produce alternative fuels at scale. This sustainable approach not only tackles climate change but also brings economic opportunities to rural coastal communities. A win for the planet and its people. The judges found this innovation to be a well substantiated plan of action for conducting a pilot and when fully realized it would address the area of ocean acidification which is a major threat to the ocean ecosystem, while also fueling the local economy in South Africa.

Winner #3: “SeaSprout” by Uriel Sanchez (Colombia)

Awarded grant: 2,500 Euro

Uriel Sanchez’s project, SeaSprout, involves transforming areas of the continental shelf affected by decades of trawling through artificial rhodolith beds. This initiative harnesses the power of circular economy and  provides the means of permanently fixing carbon through the calcification of coralline algae, fostering biodiversity and improving the fish environment. Taking a research based approach, SeaSprout’s goal is to implement an innovation for both biodiversity enhancement (restore the local ecosystem) and climate (facilitate carbon storage).

Winner #2: “Charlas El Océano” by Gabriela Casuso, Proyecto Acuática (Colombia)

Awarded grant: 5,000 Euro

Sixteen-year-old Gabriela Casuso submitted her innovative idea, Charlas El Océano: an educational program promoting oceanic culture, marine life protection, and instilling ocean awareness in children and adolescents. The initiative is part of her project Proyecto Acuática which she founded when she was only 10 years old and consists of educational and allusive programs, reflexive videos and games, that aim to plant ocean awareness in new generations.Indeed, as the founder states: “Because children can change the world too.”

Winner #1: “Chbika: the micro-waste tool” by Saad Abid (Morocco)

Awarded grant: 10,000 Euro

Inspired by the need to combat one of the most pressing threats to our oceans, Chbika is a practical and effective tool designed to capture micro-waste from our beaches. The project offers a simple and accessible solution to local communities and environmental protection organizations and raises awareness amongst the beach goers and volunteers. According to the assessment of the panel of judges, the Chbika scored highly on the criteria of originality, impact, positivity, location, feasibility and sustainability, as they recognised that not only is it an effective tool for extracting micro waste, it also fulfills a function for education about the cause of marine pollution. Chbika is also easy to replicate in other countries and regions, and is therefore easy to scale-up. Join in on all the MPA Day 2024 action by visiting MPA Day South Africa for updated events and activities.