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St Andrews Prize for the Environment 2018

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Following receipt of entries from around the world, three finalists have been selected for this year’s prestigious St Andrews Prize for the Environment. The winner will receive US$100,000 and the two runners-up will each receive US$25,000.

The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is an environmental initiative by the University of St Andrews in Scotland and independent exploration and production company, ConocoPhillips. The award recognises significant contributions to environmental issues and concerns with a focus on sustainability, conservation, biodiversity and community development.

Over the years, the Prize has supported a wide range of projects from around the world in addressing the diverse topics of sustainable development, food security, urban re-generation, recycling, health, water and waste issues, renewable energy, community education and more. Ideas submitted have been global, local and/or scalable and they outline how they will socially and economically impact the communities in which they are based.

The finalists’ presentations will be heard at a seminar at the University of St Andrews and the winner will be announced on the evening of Thursday 26 April 2018.

Submissions for the prize are screened by representatives from the University of St Andrews and ConocoPhillips before being assessed by a panel of trustees representing science, industry and government. The award goes to the project that the trustees believe displays the best combination of science, economic realism and sustainability.

This year, 2018 will mark the 20th year of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment. To find out details about previous prize winners and finalists, including a map showing where they are from, visit the website.

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The three finalists for the St Andrews Prize for the Environment 2018 are:

Net-Works – Empowering Communities, Replenishing the Ocean

Net-Works improves the lives of marginalised coastal communities living in biodiversity hotspots of developing countries. They do this by redesigning global supply chains to create sustainable and scalable solutions for reducing marine plastics and increasing fish stocks.

On the current trajectory of plastics pollution and overfishing, there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish in the ocean by 2025. The people most affected are those in marginalised rural communities within biodiversity hotspots of the developing world. This is especially true in Southeast Asia, the centre of marine biodiversity, which contributes more than 60% of the world’s marine debris, contains 55% of the global population of artisanal reef fishers, and suffers the highest level of fishing pressure.

Community-based Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) with No-Take Zones (NTZs) and mangrove rehabilitation areas are key for restoring coastal ecosystems and enhancing socio-ecological resilience. Though there are over 1,500 MPAs in the Philippines, these are often too small to be effective due to the high dependence of communities on fishing. They are also too dependent on donor funding cycles and typically focus on coral reefs without capturing critical seagrasses or mangroves.

Net-Works’ simple, scalable and holistic model applies the principles of fair trade and inclusive business, creating efficient community-based supply chains for raw materials including plastics and seaweed carrageenan. (Carageenans are a family of linear sulphated polysaccharides extracted from red edible seaweeds that are widely used in the food industry for their gelling, thickening and stabilising properties.) By increasing income from seaweed, this reduces the community’s dependence on fishing, enabling them to set aside larger NTZs.

The raw materials are sold into global supply chains, giving international brands the opportunity to source premium products with a positive social and environmental story. This gives fishing communities a more transparent and dependable price and provides sustainable funding sources for local conservation and development. Net-Works also sets up community banks, which bring communities together into informal cooperatives and provide much-needed access to financial services. This enables members to invest in their sustainable livelihoods and build a Net-Works conversation constituency.

TEDs in Malaysia – Fishing Industry Incentives for Turtle Conservation

Marine Research Foundation’s (MRF) project seeks to broker relationships between leading hotel chains and shrimp fishers to catch turtle-free shrimp.

Shrimp trawl fisheries have been identified as one of the leading causes of sea turtle declines in Malaysia, and around the world. Despite ongoing protection of nesting beaches, transfer of eggs to hatcheries and awareness campaigns, Malaysian sea turtles continue to face worrying declines. MRF and the Department of Fisheries Malaysia believe that the reduction of the by-catch of sea turtles is a critical step in ensuring their survival in the country.

Large numbers of sea turtles are killed by shrimp trawl fishers in developing countries each year. The use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) can reduce turtle catch by more than 98 percent, but fishers remain sceptical about their use for fear of losing catches. TEDs also reduce fuel costs (less unwanted material in the nets), increase product value (less damage to shrimp) and reduce down-time (less damage to the net). The major problem with uptake is not their functionality, but their perceived functionality, coupled with a lack of incentives for use.

MRF’s goal is to reduce the incidental capture and mortality of sea turtles in Malaysia by educating and incentivising fishing communities to use TEDs. Their plan is to link fishers with international hotel chains that are keen to promote the use of sustainable seafood, particularly turtle-free shrimp. They will pay a small premium to fishers (in addition to the cost of the shrimp) for them to supply sustainable seafood to the hotels, enhancing the image of the fisher and the end-buyer.

Long-term solutions to sustainable fishing lie in the hands of fishers, buyers and consumers. Some people find it economically challenging to make choices based on environmental efforts, just as businesses do not waste capital on unsuccessful ventures. By bridging the two ends of the spectrum, MRF aims to incentivise fishing communities and satisfy consumers.

The Mountain Institute, Peru – Restoring Ancient Water Technologies

This project integrates 2000 years of indigenous knowledge of water management in the Andes with contemporary science and technology to create hybrid solutions that improve water security, support livelihoods and increase ecosystem-wide resilience in mountain communities.

Healthy mountain ecosystems help buffer the impacts of climate change for local communities, wildlife and downstream populations worldwide. Mountain people rely on their surrounding environment for water, food, pasture and the raw materials that are the foundation of their livelihoods. Further downstream, towns and cities depend on mountain water for drinking, agriculture and industry.

Efforts to manage, conserve or restore natural environments can help people adapt to climate change by taking advantage of a healthy ecosystem’s natural resilience. Increases in average annual temperatures in high-elevation tropical mountains like the Andes are projected to be considerably higher than the planetary average. Already, glacier recession is leading to a reduction in water base-flow and the drying out of grasslands, moorlands and waterholes on which pastoralist communities depend.

In 2013, The Mountain Institute, Peru began working with communities in the Nor-Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve affected by increasing water scarcity. They discovered the existence of a vast, complex and partially abandoned hydraulic system to manage water in the alpine high-plateau, or puna. Initiated as early as 100 BC, these systems were used extensively until about 1532. Through a complex of dams and open earth canals, the systems increased soil and ground water storage, creating niche plant communities for camelid herds, and improved water supplies to irrigation systems.

Based on the experience and evidence gained, the group propose to reduce the vulnerability of mountain communities to increasing water scarcity by restoring ancestral hydraulic systems and principles. Their objective is to increase the availability of tools, case studies, methods and information to build and strengthen the capacities of networks of scientists and indigenous organisations to co-design and implement the restoration of this ancestral water system.


For the 21st anniversary of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment, the submission cycle will change. The 2019 prize will open for entries on Monday 30 April 2018 and will run for four a four-week period through to Friday 25 May 2018.

For further media information, photographs or to arrange interviews, contact Andrew Spence, Mearns & Gill, 7 Carden Place, Aberdeen, AB10 1PP. Tel: +44 (0)1224 646311. Email: andrew.spence@mearns-gill.com

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