Joanna Alfaro Shigueto receives her award from HRH The Princess Royal. Photo: James Finlay.

£30,000 award to South West sea-life scientist

HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) has presented a Whitley Award for inspirational conservation leadership to University of Exeter research fellow Joanna Alfaro Shigueto for her work to build a better future for Pacific coast wildlife and fishing communities.

Originally from Peru, Joanna is a recent graduate of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University’s Cornwall Campus.

She is currently working with University of Exeter colleagues on a Darwin Initiative-funded project which involves working with fishermen, non-governmental organisations and national fisheries agency in Peru to promote the conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainable fishing.

Joanna, the head of the conservation non-profit organisation ProDelphinius, received the honour during a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London, hosted by Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) – the UK-based charity which organises the international awards scheme.

Her Whitley Award comprises a project grant of £30,000 – donated by Goldman Sachs  - an engraved trophy, membership of the influential network of past Whitley Award winners and professional development training.

The award recognises Joanna’s efforts to protect the many marine species which feed and breed off Peru’s long Pacific coast, including turtles, rays, sharks and Humboldt penguin, while also improving catches and profits for the many thousands of coastal families who depend on small scale fishing for food and income.

Joanna Alfaro Shigueto said: “This award means so much to me and will make a huge difference to my work. This work could have an impact on the livelihoods of thousands of small-scale fishermen in Peru, but also could reduce the impact of their fisheries on threatened fauna such as turtles, dolphins and seabirds.”

Professor David Hosken, Director of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the Cornwall campuses said: “Congratulations to Joanna on winning this prestigious international award. Joanna plays a key role in our work in Peru, where we are working with local fishermen, NGOs and national fisheries to promote sustainable fishing. This award will help to raise the awareness of the importance of this work, which is helping to protect Peru’s amazing marine biodiversity and ensure that local people can continue to support themselves through sustainable fishing.”
Congratulating Joanna on her success, David Wallis, Acting Director of Whitley Fund for Nature, said: “The aim of the Whitley Award is to commend conservationists from around the world who are inspiring real and positive change for people and wildlife. In Joanna’s case, the judges were particularly impressed by her success in persuading coastal communities not only that fishing and sea-life conservation can co-exist but that it can also be more efficient and profitable, and by her efforts to convince Peru’s famous fish restaurants that selling sustainably-caught fish is better for everyone.”

The presentations were watched by a 350-strong audience, including embassy representatives, Whitley Fund for Nature donors and leading environmentalists.

As part of the ceremony, The Princess Royal and other guests watched a series of short films showing finalists at work. The screenings included a film about Joanna’s work  narrated by the world-renowned wildlife broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough, a Trustee of WFN. The Whitley Awards scheme is an annual competition, first held in 1994. Since the scheme began, it has given grants worth more than £6m to support over 140 conservation leaders worldwide.

Date: 18 May 2012