Naomi Longa wins 2024 Whitley Award for coral reef conservation in Coral Triangle – Oceanographic Magazine

Coral Reefs in Papua New Guinea, April 2004 (by Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia)
Coral Reefs in Papua New Guinea, April 2004 (by Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia)

Last night, the 2024 winners of the Whitley Awards were announced in London. Amongst other grassroot activists, Naomi Longa was given the prestigious award for her inspiring work with the Sea Women of Melanesia

The UK charity the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is recognising Naomi Longa from Papua New Guinea to expand her work to monitor and manage coral reefs in the biodiversity hotspot of Kimbe Bay and to further extend her female-driven marine conservation model in local waters of the Coral Triangle, home to 76% of the world’s coral reef species.

The biologist and co-director of the NGO Sea Women of Melanesia will create a network of marine protected areas with local indigenous women in Kimbe Bay, a globally significant marine ecosystem within the Coral Triangle that is threatened by climate change, overfishing and habitat destruction.

“Winning the Whitley Award is an incredible honour and a validation of my work in protecting the globally significant coral reefs of my country,” said Naomi Longa. The Coral Triangle spans six countries, is home to 6,000 coral reef fish species and provides food and livelihoods for more than 120 million people.

Charity Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, presented the £50,000 Whitley Award last night at the Royal Geographical Society in a ceremony that marked three decades since the very first Whitley Award was presented and 25 years since the Princess’ involvement as Patron. The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a UK charity supporting grassroots conservation leaders in the Global South. Over 30 years it has channelled £23 million to more than 200 conservationists across 80 countries.

Sir David Attenborough, WFN Ambassador and a long-term supporter of the charity, said the growing network of winners represent some of the best conservation leaders in the world: “Whitley Award winners combine knowing how to respond to crises yet also bring communities and wider audiences with them…”

Whitley Awards (05-01-2024):
Naomi Longa | Sir David Attenborough presents 2024 Whitley Award winner | Papua New Guinea

Kimbe Bay is an area of staggering marine biodiversity within the Pacific Ocean’s Eastern Coral Triangle. The bay contains 76% (605) of the world’s coral reef and 800 species of fish. This marine region, however, is under threat from overfishing, habitat degradation and climate change. Naomi and her team at The Sea Women of Melanesia work directly with local communities, primarily women, to design and implement Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) to allow reefs to recover. By providing continuous mentorship and skills development to empower women to take leadership roles within their communities, they hope to start a wave which will encourage other women to drive positive change.


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