Changing Planet

Enric Sala and Pristine Seas Receive EMA Heroes Award

Armed with his camera, which is armed in turn with a two-sided lighting rig, Enric Sala ascends from a coral tower off New Caledonia. (Photo by Manu San Felix)

“With six documentary films and counting, chronicling his essential work, Dr. Enric Sala is not only a true inspiration,” said Debbie Levin, President, Environmental Media Association, “he is educating and motivating us all on the intricacies of marine wildlife.”

To anyone who has interacted with National Geographic over the past 10 years, Enric’s name and his mission are likely to be familiar. As leader of the National Geographic Pristine Seas project, Enric has taken teams of scientists and filmmakers to the some of the most remote and untouched islands and coastlines on Earth, all in the name of gathering scientific data and creating memorable films of the experience. The data and images are then powerful tools for the people of those regions to protect their marine environments.

Underwater everything always seems so cool and easy. Back on the surface, the hard work of conservation becomes more apparent on Enric Sala's face. (Photo by Andrew Howley)
Underwater everything always seems so cool and easy. Back on the surface, the hard work of conservation becomes more apparent on Enric Sala’s face. (Photo by Andrew Howley)

This two-pronged approach to conservation is what is being celebrated by the Environmental Media Association this weekend as Enric and the whole Pristine Seas Project receive the inaugural EMA Board of Directors Heroes Award.

The EMA was established in 1989 by entertainment industry veterans including Norman Lear, producer of 70s sitcoms including All in the Family, and The Jeffersons. Inspired by success stories where TV episodes with message-related plot elements had encouraged increased application for library cards and familiarity with the concept of having a designated driver, Lear, his wife, Lyn, and Cindy and Alan Horn teamed up to encourage and celebrate the ways entertainment can “promote sustainable lifestyles” and “inspire consumers to take action” for the benefit of the environment.

Filmmaker Neil Gelinas has been on most of the Pristine Seas expeditions, shooting with the team in the field, and then editing the final programs back at NG Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Enric Sala)
Filmmaker Neil Gelinas has been on most of the Pristine Seas expeditions, shooting with the team in the field, and then editing the final programs back at NG Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Enric Sala)

Since the founding of the Pristine Seas project, Enric and team have undertaken 10 expeditions, working with many other groups and individuals, and helped to inspire the creation or expansion of several large no-take Marine Protected Areas around the world. At the Clinton Global Initiative forum in September 2014, the project’s expansion was first announced to the public. Over the next five years, the Pristine Seas team hopes to help designate 20 more such areas, totaling 770,000 square miles of protected ocean.

Alan Turchik and others from National Geographic's Remote Imaging team have developed cameras and lights that can boldly go where no diver can, capturing images of fish at the bottom most depths of the sea. (Photo by Andrew Howley)
Alan Turchik and others from National Geographic’s Remote Imaging team have developed cameras and lights that can boldly go where no diver can, capturing images of fish at the bottom most depths of the sea. (Photo by Andrew Howley)

 

Photo by Andrew Howley
One of the few photos of underwater filmmaker Manu San Felix taken above the waves. (Photo by Andrew Howley)

Hundreds more photos of pristine undersea worlds will come out of these future expeditions, along with hours of fully produced films in the National Geographic tradition. Behind the video cameras, team members such as Neil Gelinas, Manu San Felix, Scott Ressler, and Alan Turchik, are working with Enric Sala and the other scientists, filming the action and helping to bring the sea’s dark corners and dire need to the light of day for viewers around the world.

Click the image above to see photos from the Pristine Seas: Cocos Island expedition and more. (Photo by Enric Sala)
Click the image to view photos from the Pristine Seas: Cocos Island expedition and more. (Photo by Enric Sala)

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Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.
  • Tina A Walker

    Without our oceans there is no hope for the life on land! We must protect the underwater world in order to protect all life on Earth…

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