— Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, the environment and energy minister of Costa Rica, received the first annual Global Ocean Conservation Award this evening from six organizations promoting marine conservation.
Rodriguez, 45, was honored on World Ocean Day for his work in the past year advancing the global marine conservation agenda. The six groups presenting the award at the National Press Club were Conservation International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Revolution, and the World Wildlife Fund.
The Global Ocean Conservation Award is given annually on World Ocean Day (June 8) to an individual who makes globally significant contributions in ocean use planning, marine conservation communications, ocean governance, coastal zone management, ecosystem restoration, fisheries reform and/or the advancement of ocean science in poorly known ecosystems.
Rodriguez is the first winner. In 2004, he expanded Costa Rica’s Las Baulas National Marine Park and facilitated the signing of the "San Jose Declaration" by his government, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador that set up multinational management and conservation in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape (ETPS). The marine mega-corridor includes two World Heritage Sites – the Galapagos Archipelago of Ecuador and Cocos Island of Costa Rica – and two proposed sites for World Heritage status.
"The ocean as a living system can not realistically be viewed in terms of political boundaries drawn on maps" Rodriguez said. "Healthy ecosystems and productive ocean industries will only be maintained through a holistic view of ocean management based on cooperation among States to address issues on the scale of large marine ecosystems."
Rodriguez also provided outstanding leadership in the worldwide effort to secure a U.N. moratorium on high seas bottom trawling. The Costa Rican moratorium proposal, as it became known during the U.N. General Assembly, continues to gain support from nations around the world.
"Costa Rica has a strong tradition of being a leader in global environmental issues and we congratulate Mr. Rodriguez for extending his country’s influence and vision into the ocean realm," said Elliott Norse, president of MCBI.
John Adams, president of NRDC, cited the commitment of Rodriguez, saying "his leadership and success in promoting a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling is but one example of how the world is a better place because of his work."
In February, Rodriguez helped gain approval of a new Costa Rican fisheries law that requires all shrimp trawlers to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) and outlaws the practice of shark finning.
"Costa Rica, via the leadership of Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, has shown unparalleled leadership as an ocean steward, not only within Latin America, but for the world," said Sylvia A. Earle, executive director of Conservation International’s Global Marine Division.
A diver and avid surfer, Rodriguez holds a law degree from the University of Costa Rica and a graduate degree in environmental law from Southern Methodist University. He has co-authored three books and written extensively on environmental subjects for magazines, trade publications and newspaper opinion pages.
The reception marked the second anniversary of Defying Ocean’s End, a campaign inspired by the urgent need to address the sharp decline in ocean wildlife, a disturbing increase in ocean pollution, and other marine conservation issues.
Read more about the award on the Defying Ocean End website