Canadian seahorse expert wins leading award for animal conservation

Amanda Vincent is an authority on seahorse ecology and conservation.

The Indianapolis Zoo has announced the winner of a prestigious prize:

Officials from the Indianapolis Prize announced Amanda Vincent, Ph.D., as the 2020 Winner of the world’s leading award for animal conservation. Vincent is the preeminent authority on seahorse ecology and conservation.

A self-proclaimed “ocean optimist,” Vincent, a professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at The University of British Columbia, where she directs Project Seahorse, was the first biologist to study seahorses in the wild, document their extensive trade and establish a project for their conservation.

“Dr. Amanda Vincent’s determination to protect our oceans and the species that inhabit it is nothing short of heroic,” said Dr. Rob Shumaker, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc., which presents the Indianapolis Prize every other year. “Dr. Vincent brings a collaborative, culturally sensitive and solutions-focused approach to ocean conservation. She inspires people to action and drives positive outcomes for marine species. It’s our privilege to recognize and reward her for her immeasurable impact on ocean conservation and the future of seahorses around the world.”

Vincent has dedicated her career to understanding and advocating for seahorses, which serve as flagship species for a wide range of marine conservation issues. She is credited

Hippocampus pontohi seahorse. Photo: Patrick Decaluwe

with bringing the world’s attention to the 44 known species of seahorses and developing an effective approach to conservation that has also improved the status of many other marine fishes, such as sharks, rays, groupers and eels.

“It is a great honor to be named the 2020 Indianapolis Prize Winner. This prestigious global award allows me to advocate for vastly more attention to the ocean – which accounts for 99 percent of the living space on Earth – and all the species on which the marine ecosystem depends,” said Vincent. “Through the perspective of seahorses, we have inspired many, many people globally to safeguard ocean life. The Indianapolis Prize now gives us an even bigger platform to invite and empower people to take meaningful conservation action.”

She and her Project Seahorse team are now focused on bringing an end to harmful fishing practices such as bottom trawling, where industrial nets are dragged across the ocean floor, catching everything in their paths and destroying vital habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds in the process. Bottom trawling is the single biggest threat to seahorses.

Vincent is the eighth Winner of Indianapolis Prize and the first to focus exclusively on marine conservation. In 2006, the Indianapolis Zoological Society created the Indianapolis Prize to recognize and reward conservationists who have made significant progress in saving an animal species, or multiple species, from extinction. Every other year, the Indianapolis Prize awards $250,000 to one Winner, while five Finalists receive $10,000 each. The Finalists for the 2020 Indianapolis Prize include: P. Dee Boersma, Ph.D., Christophe Boesch, Ph.D., Gerardo Ceballos, Ph.D., Sylvia Earle, Ph.D. and John Robinson, Ph.D. The individuals will be recognized at the Indianapolis Prize Gala:

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