Press Release

Pristine Seas Nets Ocean Conservation Innovation Award

National Geographic Pristine Seas received the Conservation Innovation award in recognition for its impact on marine protected areas.

Photograph by National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) kicked off with a message of hope and resilience at the Ocean Awards Gala last night, where National Geographic Pristine Seas was among four champions of conservation celebrated for contributions to the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) worldwide.

Hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in Washington D.C. every June, CHOW brings together scientists, policymakers, and others to address issues facing our oceans and Great Lakes. Its annual Conservation Innovation Award recognizes “a company or foundation for their significant contributions to marine and Great Lakes conservation and the protection of natural and cultural resources through the support of sound science, exploration, policymaking, advocacy, and/or innovative partnerships.”

"At Pristine Seas, we lead with our hearts and our heads. We need both in order to foster wonder for the ocean and to protect it," said Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Founder of Pristine Seas while accepting the award on behalf of his team.

Since 2008, the team of policy leaders, filmmakers, and scientists have worked with governments, local and Indigenous communities and nonprofit organizations to help create 27 MPAs spanning 6.6 million square kilometers — an area more than twice the size of India. But while many organizations combine science and policy work to create change, Pristine Seas has developed a unique and innovative approach — one with an additional mission to inspire a love for the ocean itself.

In 2023, Pristine Seas launched the Global Expedition, an effort to explore the tropical Pacific alongside local leadership in support of protecting at least 30 percent of the ocean by 2030. Aboard its customized research vessel, the Argo, the Pristine Seas team has already crossed 6,493+ nautical miles — about a third of the way around the globe — to gather key scientific data and stunning visuals of a world rarely seen to make the case for marine protection.

Pristine Seas was in good company on the award stage, joined by national ocean conservation leaders Violet Sage Walker — Chairwoman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, and White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Brenda Mallory. The event was led by Joel Johnson, CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in partnership with Jeff Corwin, American Biologist and wildlife conservationist and National Geographic Explorer Justin Dunnavant.

“What gives me hope,” said Sala, “is the incredible power of the ocean to bounce back, something I’ve seen myself so many times, and the passion of the ocean protection community represented here tonight. Together, we have the power to see this through.”

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About Pristine Seas

Pristine Seas works with Indigenous and local communities, governments, and other partners to help protect vital places in the ocean using a unique combination of research, community engagement, policy work, and strategic communications and media. Since 2008, our program has conducted 43 expeditions around the world and helped establish 27 marine reserves, spanning more than 6.6 million square kilometers of ocean.

About The National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content.

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