Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona

Nat Award 2022 winner

Communication NAT Award Nat Award 2022 Nat Award 2022 winner

Enric Sala i Gamito

1968, Girona

Marine ecologist, National Geographic explorer in residence and founder and director of Pristine Seas, a project devoted to the exploration and protection of the last wild places in the global ocean.

He studied biology at the University of Barcelona and received a PhD in Ecology from the University of Aix-Marseille (France). Thanks to a grant from the Government of Catalonia, he joined the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego (USA) as a researcher and professor. He remained there for a decade until 2007 when he returned to join the Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes (CSIC).

While he was in California, Enric Sala realised that, as a scientist, all he was doing was writing the obituary of marine life with increasing precision, and he decided to quit academia and become a full-time conservationist. He founded Pristine Seas (2008), a programme devoted to protecting the last wild places in the global ocean. With this project under his belt, he approached the National Geographic Society, which supported his proposal and hired him as an explorer in residence.

With his team, Enric Sala carries out scientific expeditions from the Arctic to Patagonia with three aims: to identify and explore areas that need protecting; to produce scientific reports and documentaries to raise awareness among the general public and political and economic leaders about the need to protect these areas; and to promote new business models compatible with marine conservation.

To date, with the Pristine Seas project Enric Sala has carried out 36 scientific expeditions, helped create 25 marine reserves, a total area of 6.5 million km2, which is 13 times the surface area of Spain. The aim of the project is to protect 30% of the global ocean by 2030 and to reduce fishing by half with the promotion of development models compatible with marine diversity.

Enric Sala is the author of hundreds of research papers, and has written popular books such as The Nature of Nature. Why we Need the Wild and Pristine Seas: Journeys to the Ocean’s Last Wild Places, and has worked as executive producer on over 30 documentary films made by National Geographic. These include The Last Ice about the Inuit communities’ fight to protect the Arctic, and Secrets of the Mediterranean: Cousteau’s Lost World where Cousteau’s son compares the conditions of the areas in which fishing has been banned with the overfishing in the rest of the ocean.

It should be noted that Enric Sala took part as an expert in the documentary Before the Flood where the actor Leonardo DiCaprio travels across the globe interviewing scientists and world leaders such as Barack Obama and Angela Merkel about climate change. Finally, in recognition of his conservation work, he has received important awards such as the Prince Albert I of Monaco Grand Medal (2021), the National Geographic Society Hubbard Medal (2021) and the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader Award (2008).