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11 Journalists Awarded with Ocean Reporting Grants

Woman selling fish at a market

The ocean is home to 80% of life and generates at least 50% of the world’s oxygen, yet much about the vast marine ecosystem remains unknown. With the ocean the warmest it’s ever been, and 90% of the world’s fish stocks reported as fully exploited, overexploited or depleted, the need for reporting on the progress of ocean science and policy has never been more urgent.

The United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, which has been delayed until 2022 due to the pandemic, presents an opportunity to scale up action towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water. The UN has also announced 2021-2030 to be the Decade of Ocean Science, so that the knowledge we need to protect our seas is generated at a faster pace.

In order to uphold momentum and ensure that these important issues continue to be discussed in the run up to the conference, the EJN launched the Ocean Story Grants. Through these grants, EJN is providing 11 journalists with funding and mentorship to report on critical ocean issues. The topics that each grantee will be covering are described below.  

Bong Sarmiento, Philippines (MindaNews)

Bong’s piece focuses on single-use plastics and microplastics which are choking Sarangani Bay, a protected seascape in the southern Philippines. The story explores the dangers posed by plastic pollution accumulating in the deeper parts of the bay which affects the marine resources and the livelihood of fishermen in the area. This story was published in September, and can be read here.

Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya, Sierra Leone (Standard Times Press)

Ishmael has reported on the first official record of seagrass in Sierra Leone, and the importance of community support for its conservation. Seagrass meadows are an important source of food and shelter for marine life but many Sierra Leoneans are unaware of the benefits of these fragile marine ecosystems. This article was published in May, and can be read here.

Elisabetta Zavoli, Italy (Radar Magazine)

Elisabetta and her team will be reporting on noise pollution and its impact on marine life in the Adriatic Sea. Her work will include an interactive map to depict the temporal changes of the underwater soundscape, as well as the changes during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Daniela Quintero Díaz, Colombia (El Espectador)

The worldwide demand for eel sushi is driving eel farming in the Caribbean islands. Despite the species being listed as endangered, the smuggling of glass eels to Hong Kong and other Asian countries is rampant and has come to be seen as a way out of poverty. Daniela’s multimedia story will include a photo report, documentary and infographics.

Fernanda Santana, Brazil (Jornal Correio)

Fernanda’s investigative series will consider the various environmental issues affecting Brazil’s Baía de Todos (Bay of All Saints), the second largest bay in the world. Human activity and the proposed construction of a bridge that will link Salvador to the Island of Itaparica is set to transform the Baía de Todos, much to the detriment of the local ecosystem.

Peter Yeung, UK (The Guardian)

Peter Yeung is reporting from the Canary Islands on an innovative new method to combat ocean acidification in coral reefs. With ocean acidification set to rise by 100-150% by the end of the century, such initiatives may be crucial to support coral reef structures and marine ecosystems. 

Jorge Rodríguez, Guatemala (Viatori)

Jorge Rodriquez is reporting on the culturally important Manjúa anchovy fishery in Guatemala, where local fishers and their families collect over 3 million fish per year. The method of using fine mesh nets to collect the fish results in a large amount of unsustainable bycatch, but banning the practice would threaten Indigenous Mayan populations who depend on these fish for a balanced diet. 

Alexandre Brutelle, France (Bastamag!)

Alexandre Brutelle is investigating environmental threats from a leaking wastewater pipe in Bulgaria polluting Lake Varna and the Black Sea. Varna is the second largest fishery port in Bulgaria, exporting much of its catch to the EU. The leaks therefore have significant impact on the global supply chain.

Joana Suarez, Brazil (Cirandeiras Podcast)

Joana will be producing a series of podcast episodes that focus on ocean-themed topics, including oil spills, shell fishing and marine pollution, told from the perspectives of the coastal Brazilian women impacted by them.

Ehab Zidan, Egypt (Daraj Media)

Ehab will be investigating the rampant trade of threatened sea cucumbers that has brought them to the brink of extinction in the Red Sea. His investigation will consider the impact of this illegal trade on the species and its environment.

Adetokunbo Abiola, Nigeria (Premium Times)

Adetokunbo’s work will explore how overfishing, climate change, and increasing oil pollution is making it increasingly challenging for artisanal fishers in Nigeria to sustain their livelihoods and compete with foreign-owned fleets in their seas. 

This work is supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch). Click here to read more about the UN Ocean Project. 

Banner image: v2osk on Unsplash.