In April 2014, three young conservationists all making a difference in their own way, headed to the Netherlands to receive the Future for Nature Award 2014. I was one of the three people awarded for my work with the Albatross Task Force, preventing unnecessary deaths of seabirds during fishing operations. I was selected from a total of 126 applications from 58 countries to be one of the lucky recipients of this prestigious international award which carries a purse of €50 000 for each winner.

The Future for Nature (FFN) Foundation recognised the role I have played over the last 6 years in conserving these ocean wanderers. Through this annual award, FFN supports young, talented and ambitious conservations working to protect endangered species. The Future for Nature Award encourages individuals to become conservation leaders and opens doors to an international network of dedicated conservationists who are able to provide learning support, mentoring and financial assistance.

I was joined by Caleb Ofori Boateng from Ghana who is committed to protecting the critically endangered Togo slippery frog through a unique approach where he combines religion and combination to inform people about the frog’s role in the ecosystem and the necessity of protecting it. The American-Egyptian Leela Hazzah works with the Maasai in Kenya to protect lions instead of killing them. The guest speaker, Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton presented the key-note address and the awards, after each recipient delivered inspirational addresses to the 500 strong crowd. This was followed by a lunch where the winners mingled with the guests.  One of the highlights was a young man who approached me looking for advice that would allow him to one day reach his dream to stand on the stage as one of the future winners. It really was the ‘Oscar’ event for conservationists where major success stories were shared, friendships were built and where no one left the event uninspired! This will remain a highlight within my career and a day I will not easily forget – the best part is that conservation is being achieved and used to motivate the next generation to continue the fight!

Below: Bronwyn receiving her award (second from the right)

The money will be put towards the continued testing of Hook Pods. The Hook Pod is a device which ensures that the tip and barb of longline hooks are protected (encapsulated) during longline setting operations. This prevents seabird bycatch as the pressure-activated pod only opens, releasing baited hooks once they reach a depth beyond seabird diving capabilities. Hook pods also potentially reduce bycatch of other taxa such as sea turtles.

The South African ATF team are extremely excited today as one of our instructors, Bokamoso Lebepe, has just boarded a local tuna longline vessel to begin the second round of Hook Pod tests! He will return towards the end of June where we will hopefully be able to report some more successes!

Below: Bokamoso building Hook Pods into the longline gear