Amanda Vincent was recently announced as the 2020 winner of the world’s leading award for animal conservation. Vincent is a preeminent authority on seahorse ecology and conservation and was the first marine conservationist to win the Indianapolis Prize.

Vincent is a self-proclaimed “ocean optimist” and a professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. She directs Project Seahorse, and was the first biologist to study seahorses in the wild, document their extensive trade and establish a project for their conservation.

“Dr. Amanda Vincent’s determination to protect our oceans and the species that inhabit it is nothing short of heroic,” said Dr. Rob Shumaker, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc., which presents the Indianapolis Prize every other year. “Dr. Vincent brings a collaborative, culturally sensitive and solutions-focused approach to ocean conservation. She inspires people to action and drives positive outcomes for marine species. It’s our privilege to recognize and reward her for her immeasurable impact on ocean conservation and the future of seahorses around the world.”

Vincent has dedicated her career to understanding and advocating for seahorses, which serve as flagship species for a wide range of marine conservation issues. She is credited with bringing the world’s attention to the 44 known species of seahorses and developing an effective approach to conservation that has also improved the status of many other marine fishes, such as sharks, rays, groupers and eels.

“It is a great honor to be named the 2020 Indianapolis Prize Winner. This prestigious global award allows me to advocate for vastly more attention to the ocean – which accounts for 99 percent of the living space on Earth – and all the species on which the marine ecosystem depends,” said Vincent. “Through the perspective of seahorses, we have inspired many, many people globally to safeguard ocean life. The Indianapolis Prize now gives us an even bigger platform to invite and empower people to take meaningful conservation action.”

Though she was initially drawn to research seahorses’ extraordinary biology, Vincent soon discovered the threats they faced and catalyzed her research into action in 1996, when she successfully led the global conservation community to include seahorses on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List — the world’s authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity. She also played an instrumental role in persuading the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to adopt landmark legislation to limit the global seahorse trade to sustainable and legal exports. Together, these efforts furthered the legitimacy of marine conservation and created policies to effectively and sustainably manage fisheries all over the world.

Vincent’s achievements were made possible through her collaborative leadership in global seahorse conservation. After discovering the over-fishing of seahorses for use in traditional medicines, aquarium displays and souvenirs, she partnered with local communities, industry groups, aquariums and governments around the world to develop sustainable approaches to seahorse trade. Her conservation cooperation also enabled Vincent to generate 35 marine protected areas — dedicated areas of the ocean where no fishing is allowed, and the populations of seahorses and other marine fishes thrive.

Her team is now focused on bringing an end to harmful fishing practices such as bottom trawling, where industrial nets are dragged across the ocean floor, catching everything in their paths and destroying vital habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds in the process. Bottom trawling is the single biggest threat to seahorses.

The Indianapolis Prize recognizes and rewards conservationists who have achieved major victories in advancing the sustainability of an animal species or group of species. Winners receive an unrestricted $250,000 award. Remaining Finalists each receive $10,000. The individuals will be recognized at the Indianapolis Prize Gala.

For further information on Amanda Vincent and Project Seahorse, click here.

Featured image from Project Seahorse.

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