Michael Aw, Oceanic AmbassadorAbout Michael Aw

Michael Aw is an author, explorer and conservation photographer. His accolades include winning more than 63 international photographic awards and being named as one of the world’s most influential nature photographers by Outdoor Photography. In 2013 he was the first Asian to be awarded a NOGI by the American Academy of Underwater Arts and Science.

In 2012, Michael’s ‘Indonesia’s Global Treasures’ won the International Prize for Best Book of the Year at the World Underwater Pictures Festival (Festival Mondial de l'Image Sous Marine). This artistic book category yielded entries from a host of international authors and photographers including books published by media powerhouses from UK, Germany, Singapore, USA and France. “Global Treasures” received the Palme d'Or (Gold) award.  Michael is the first to have won this prestigious award twice; the first was for “Heart of the Ocean” in 2009.

Michael AW’s essays and pictures have been published in BBC Wildlife, National Geographic, the Smithsonian, Nature, Ocean Geographic, Asian Geographic, Nature Focus, Times, and Discovery to name but a few. In 2010 he won the the prestigious Gold Diver award for the highly contested Portfolio category at the World Festival of Underwater Pictures in France. This is the first time an Asian has won this category. He is also a recipient of three awards from the Natural History Museum BBC Photographer of the Year Wildlife Competition in 2000, 2010 and in 2006 he won the Best Winner award in the underwater category.  In 2008 Stan Waterman conferred Michael with the Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Award from Sharks Research Institute in recognition of his highly-effective and unrelenting campaign against shark fin soup consumption in the Asia Pacific region. Michael is also a recipient of the prestigious WYLAND ICON award for Conservation in 2011 and in 2012 he was presented the Diver of the Year Award at the Beneath the Sea Festival in New Jersey.   

Michael remains today, an active member of the Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and a Fellow International of The Explorer Club NY. Some of the most prominent Fellows are Sir Edmund Hillary, Roald Amundsen, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, David Doubilet, Emory Kristof and Sylvia Earle. 

In 2010 Michael was the project director for the Elysium Epic imagery expedition with 57 team members comprising the world’s best image makers and scientists, to document the flora and fauna for a movie and climate change index from the Antarctic Peninsula to South Georgia, following in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-17 Trans Antarctic Expedition - ELYSIUMEPIC.org

Michael AW is the founder of OceanNEnvironment, a charity organization registered with Environment Australia.

“Beneath Bunaken”(1993) was his first book and Essential Digital Underwater Photography MASTERCLASS (2014)  is his 31st



2013 June Michael successfully lobbied to the Ministry of Fisheries and Trade of Brunei to ban the import and trade of shark products; on 8 June, at the 12th Celebrate the Sea Festival 2013 the festival celebrated the most momentous biggest milestone since the inception of the festival in 2002.  Minister Pehin Dato Yahya in his opening speech declared: “His Majesty, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, through the Department of Fisheries, will enforce the ban on the catch and landings of all shark species from the waters of Brunei Darussalam and thus their sales in the domestic market. Furthermore, the government will also now officially enforce the ban on the importation and trade of all shark products.” Brunei was the first country in the world to declare a ban on shark fins and all shark products.

2011 July – Michael AW initiated the 1000KidsOneMessage campaign in Hong Kong. With the support of his associate Dr Elizabeth Quat, 1000 children convened at Cyber Port on 9 July, to make the “I am the Future, I won’t eat Shark fins” pledge. Dr Sylvia Earle, David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes were on site to support the initiative. In 2012, Michael AW successfully staged the same event in Singapore on the foreshore of Resorts World Sentosa.

In 2007, Michael garnered some of the world’s most celebrated underwater photographers, film makers, scientists to be on board his dream journal Ocean Geographic. The current editorial board now comprised of Dr Gerry Allen, Dr Carden Wallace, Emory Kristof, Stan Waterman, David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes, Cabel Davis, Laurent Ballesta, Doug Perrine, Howard and Michelle Hall, Alex Mustard and Wyland. Today, Ocean Geographic is the one of the world’s most inspiring journal of the sea.

In 2004, Michael AW collaborated with good friend Mathieu Meur to produce the “Essential Guide to Digital Underwater Photography”. The Advanced edition was launched in 2007. The 4th edition has now been published; since the first edition the title is a best seller, adopted by many photographic instructors as their ‘Bible’ for underwater photography instructions. In 2007, Michael & Mathieu conducted the first Essential Digital Underwater Photography workshop in Bali; in December 2013 they conducted their 10th workshop and the many international awards won by past graduates attest to the success of their program.

In 2002, with the launch of his book, he founded the first Celebrate the Sea Festival in Singapore. His vision was to inspire nations and countries to take a day each year to celebrate the sea. In September 2007, he lobbied to Usec Cynthia Carrion and in March 2008, he wrote officially to Her Excellency Gloria Arroyo, President of the Republic of Philippines. On 13 May 2008, President Arroyo made an official proclamation declaring June as Celebrate the Sea month and every 2nd Saturday of June as Celebrate the Sea day.  This was his personal milestone and he wished to make Celebrate the Sea a global event. In 2013, Celebrate the Sea celebrated its 12th Anniversary in Brunei with over 3,000 entries in the children’s art competition and nearly 1,000 entries for the international underwater imaging competitions.

In 1998 Michael co-founded Asian Geographic with good friend Christopher Lee; he managed the title as publisher till 2005. In 2001, he acquired Scuba Diver Australasia for Asian Geographic and successfully revamped the title to become the PADI Diving Society magazine in 2004. Today Asian Geographic and Scuba Diver SDAA are the most acclaimed periodicals in the Asia Pacific.