Crew Profile

Nainoa Thompson Honored at 2015 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards

Washington, D.C. – Nainoa Thompson was honored at the 2015 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards ceremony yesterday alongside Prince Albert II of Monaco and other awardees at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC. President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and captain of the legendary voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa, Thompson was recognized for Excellence in Exploration.

President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society Nainoa Thompson.

“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of my teachers who came from some of the greatest explorers our Earth has ever seen,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of PVS. “Their resolve and solution-focused perspective is what drives our Worldwide Voyage on Hōkūleʻa today. Our destination is navigating to a place where we see better protection of our oceans through collaboration with people and entities epitomized by the Benchley Awards and their partners.”


These awards–the world’s preeminent ocean honors–are named after lifelong marine conservationist Peter Benchley. The awards program was co-founded by Wendy Benchley, an ocean conservation and policy advocate, and David Helvarg, author and executive director of Blue Frontier. Often referred to as the “Academy Awards” for the ocean, the Benchley Awards recognize excellence across a range of expertise, including national leadership, policy, science, media, youth and grassroots activism.


Thompson was honored for his contributions to marine conservation and exploration as the first Hawaiian in seven centuries to practice the ancient Polynesian art of non-instrument navigation known as “wayfinding”. United States Senator Brian Schatz, who is a powerful voice for marine protection, presented the award to Thompson.


“I can think of no one more deserving of the Award for Excellence in Exploration than Nainoa. Decades ago, Nainoa found the deep seeded strength and beauty of discovery. He worked it, collaborated with others, and actualized it. What’s remarkable is that the energy of this vision grew from a Hawaiian vision, to a Pacific Islands vision and now to a global vision. His life’s work, the Hōkūle‘a, has become a symbol and a tribute to the art of voyaging and the enduring Native Hawaiian culture,” the senator stated.

“As he mentioned, it’s really an honor to all the people of Hawaiʻi, [and] the thousands of volunteers that have made Hōkūleʻa and her many voyages happen.”

All of the winners of the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards 2015

Read the Daily News article for more information about Thompson and the Worldwide Voyage.

This year’s award winners include:

  • Prince Albert II of Monaco for the Award for Excellence; Prince Albert II is a fourth generation ocean champion, who frequently takes part in marine scientific expeditions to observe the ocean’s most pressing challenges. He is the only Head of State ever to travel to both poles. In 2006 he established the Prince Albert II Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting the ocean and the environment, as well as addressing key threats such as climate change and ocean acidification.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry for Excellence in Policy; As Secretary of State and as a U.S. Senator for twenty-eight years, John Kerry has taken extraordinary steps to advance the global effort to end illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to encourage the President and other world leaders to expand marine protected areas.
  • Dr. Daniel Pauly for Excellence in Science; considered a science rock star in the field of global fisheries, he is the founder of “Sea Around Us” project at the University of British Columbia and a preeminent authority on the threat overfishing poses to food security.
  • The Economist for Excellence in Media. The Economist has dedicated a significant amount of its news coverage to the growing and varied challenges facing the world’s oceans and is encouraging the creation of a “blue economy” where economic opportunity and growth are balanced by responsible investment in a sustainable ocean.
  • Madison “Pip” Stewart for Christopher Benchley Youth Award; an ocean activist since the age of 8, she has spent more than a decade protecting sharks in waters near her Australian home. She is the subject of an award-winning Smithsonian documentary, “Shark Girl.”
  • Todd Miller for Hero of the Seas; founder of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, which works to enhance the environment and economy of the state’s coastline.
  • Dana Beach for Hero of the Seas; founder of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, which works to protect the state’s beaches, marshes, pine savannahs and marine wildlife.

Winners are nominated by the ocean conservation community and chosen by the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards Selection Committee whose members include: Wendy Benchley; David Helvarg; Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue Founder and National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence; Dr. Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair of Marine Science, Smithsonian Institution; Dr. Jane Lubchenco, former NOAA Administrator (2009 – 2013) and Marine Biology Professor at Oregon State University; Dr. Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence; Dr. Greg Stone, Chief Ocean Scientist for Conservation International; Jim Toomey, Syndicated Cartoonist & creator ‘Sherman’s Lagoon.’

The Peter Benchley Ocean Awards annual celebration is held biennially in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, CA. Additional information on the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards is available at or

Please help keep us sailing for future generations. All contributions make a difference for our voyage. Mahalo nui loa!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Send this to friend