Former Cook Islands rugby star Kevin Iro has been named the recipient of the $US10,000 2022 Seacology Prize.
Iro is being recognized for his campaign to create the largest multi-use marine park in the world, Marae Moana, which opened in 2017.
On his return to the Cook Islands in 2001, Iro saw that the islands' coral reefs were not as vibrant and healthy as they had been when he was a child.
In 2009, he went public with his concerns about the environmental decline and its effects on traditional fishing, tourism and island culture.
Former Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna became an ally, and the two began pushing the idea of a marine park encompassing all of the country's lagoons and ocean.
Marae Moana prohibits commercial fishing and mining within 50 nautical miles of each of the country's 15 islands.
The award will be presented on October 6 in a livestreamed ceremony.