A University of HawaiÊ»i at MÄ�noa masterâ€™s graduate in geography has won the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize for her tenacious work in protecting the oceans around her native Cook Islands.
Conservationist Jacqueline â€œJacquiâ€� Evans, who earned her MA at the College of Social Sciences in 2006, led a five-year grassroots campaign to protect the stunning marine biodiversity in the Cook Islands.
In July 2017, due to Evansâ€™ leadership, the South Pacific nation enacted new legislationâ€”Marae Moanaâ€”to sustainably manage and conserve all 763,000 square miles of the countryâ€™s ocean territory, including the designation of marine protected areas 50 nautical miles around the islands. The new law shields 125,000 square miles of ocean from large-scale commercial fishing and seabed mining.
Evans serves as director of the Marae Moana Coordination Office, where she creates regulations and a national spatial plan to ensure that the law is implemented, and that the Cook Islandsâ€™ ocean territory is sustainably managed.
â€œSince obtaining her masterâ€™s degree, Jacqui has been an environmental champion for the Cook Islands, now resulting in this prestigious honor and her important watchdog role,â€� said Reece Jones, professor and chair of the Department of Geography and Environment. â€œWe offer huge congratulations on her efforts and are inspired by her responsibility to enact Marae Moana.â€�
This is the first Goldman Environmental Prize for a resident of the Cook Islands.
The Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots environmental heroes from the worldâ€™s six inhabited continental regions of Africa; Asia; Europe, Islands and Island Nations; North America; and South and Central America. The Goldman Prize views â€œgrassrootsâ€� leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.