RISG Extension Director Recognized in 2017 Peter Benchley Ocean Award

Courtesy of URI Today

Jennifer McCann, director of U.S. coastal programs for the Coastal Resources Center at the University of Rhode Island and extension director of Rhode Island Sea Grant, has received an international award for her work in coastal and ocean planning.

Jennifer McCann’s, extension director for Rhode Island Sea Grant is recognized in 2017 Peter Benchley Ocean Award for work on the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan.

McCann is the recipient of the 2017 Peter Benchley Ocean Award for her Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan, or Ocean SAMP, which provides regulations for the management and protection of Rhode Island’s ocean resources and activities. Grover Fugate, executive director of the state Coastal Resources Management Council, was also recognized for his leadership on the plan.

“I’m deeply honored to receive this award,’’ said McCann, whose programs are at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography. “I really feel that this has been a team effort with my colleagues at CRC, Sea Grant and CRMC, our host of partners and the people of Rhode Island.”

The nationally acclaimed management program increased protection for fishing, marine trades and conservation, and resulted in the installation of the first offshore wind farm in the country.

This is the first time Rhode Islanders have won the award, now in its 10th year. Past winners have included four heads of state, U.S. secretaries of state and defense, senators, leading marine scientists, journalists, explorers, youth leaders and citizen activists.

The Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management plan increased protection for fishing, marine trades and conservation, and resulted in the installation of the first offshore wind farm in the country off of Block Island.

Named in honor of the author of “Jaws,’’ the Benchley awards celebrate those who have committed their lives to working on important ocean and coastal issues.

Winning in the “Excellence in Solutions’’ category, McCann and Fugate shared the award with two ocean policy planning groups in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic that were established under the U.S. National Ocean Policy of 2010. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a recognized leader in Congress for ocean issues, nominated McCann.

Calling the recipients “widely-admired planning bodies,’’ the judges praised the winners for “enabling us for the first time ever to make smarter, better coordinated planning decisions for long-term enhancement of our shared ocean resources, including fisheries stocks, transportation channels and the leasing, permitting and development of offshore energy projects.’’

Judges went on to say that the three teams have created “landmark’’ ocean plans that prove “securing our ocean future in a collaborative way is not only possible, but the best way forward.’’

McCann and Fugate will receive their awards during an event May 11 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The awards celebrate Benchley’s 40-year commitment to educating the public about protecting sharks and ocean ecosystems.

The Ocean SAMP, a regulatory document to manage the state’s ocean resources, has won international praise from policy makers, fishermen, tribes, environmentalists and Rhode Islanders for examining how best to manage, protect and enhance increasing uses and resources of the state’s ocean waters.

For a full list of the 2017 Benchley recipients, go to http://peterbenchleyoceanawards.org/honorees/current.