Campaigner, marine biologist and photographer Dr Roger Grace has been awarded one of Forest & Bird's highest honours, the Old Blue, in recognition of his immense contribution to marine conservation over several decades.
Dr Grace has been involved in many campaigns to create marine reserves, and is widely regarded as an influential communicator of the importance of conserving marine areas. His scientific work had been of great value in shedding light on marine issues and the value of conservation, Forest & Bird board member Tony Dunlop said.
He was also one of New Zealand's most prominent underwater photographers. He had worked as a contract photographer for Greenpeace since 1990, helping to highlight some of the life found under the waves as well as destructive activities, including driftnet fishing, whaling and the overfishing of tuna.
Mr Dunlop, who announced the award at Forest & Bird's annual conference, said Dr Grace gave his time very generously, and had an important role in advocating for marine reserves.
"Roger is a very self-effacing, humble man who has made a huge contribution to marine conservation in New Zealand, and is highly respected by everyone involved in the field," he said.
Those who had worked with him praised his enthusiasm, sense of humour and eagerness to share his expertise, through his research, photography, writing and presentations.
"He has the ability to communicate his passion for the marine world and to translate scientific information in a way that is easily understood by the public," Mr Dunlop said.
"Over the last 46 years he has worked as an independent consultant in marine biology and ecology for clients including government departments, regional councils, port authorities, private businesses and non-government organisations, mostly in New Zealand but also overseas.
"Among his more recent projects, Roger has been highlighting the ecological value of mangroves in New Zealand's north and working to get permanent protection for the Bay of Plenty's Astrolabe Reef, where the remains of the container ship Rena lie."
He had received many honours and awards for his work, including the Queen's Service Medal for public service in 2005.
The Old Blue, awarded annually by New Zealand's largest independent conservation organisation to people who have made significant contributions to Forest & Bird or to the organisation's conservation goals, commemorates the last breeding female black robin, which, thanks to work led by pioneering conservationist Don Merton, saved her species from extinction in the 1980s.