All sailors have a strong affinity with the oceans and few can fail to be concerned about the steady degradation...
…of the ocean environment. A report from the International Programme on the State of the Oceans (IPSO) confirmed our worst fears in this respect. On a more positive note, many superyacht sailors not only care a great deal about the oceans but are seeking to use their influence and resources to counter the threats.
The current situation
An expert panel of scientists warns that ocean life is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”. In particular, over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting in concert in ways not previously recognised.
The panel convened by IPSO brought together experts including coral reef ecologists, toxicologists and fisheries scientists. “The findings are shocking,” said Alex Rogers, IPSO’s scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University. “As we considered the cumulative effect of what mankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised. We’re seeing changes happening faster than we expected, or in ways that we didn’t expect for a hundred years.”
These accelerated changes include melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise and release of methane trapped in the sea bed. More worrying still are the ways different issues act synergistically to increase threats to marine life. Some pollutants, for example, stick to the surface of tiny plastic particles that are now found in the sea bed and are consumed by bottom-feeding fish. From there it is but one step to the human food chain.
In a wider sense, ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing act together to increase the threat to the world’s coral reefs – three quarters of which are at severe risk of decline. And levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago.
And how can we all play our part to turn this tide around? Increasingly, superyacht owners are embracing the idea of ensuring that their craft are designed, engineered and built in ways that optimise operational and fuel efficiency while minimising pollution and other environmental impacts. This is a trend that is sure to continue.
But it is in the areas of resources, creativity and influence that yachtsmen and -women have the greatest potential role to play – specifically yacht owners. They also have far greater access to the realities of what is happening in, and on, the oceans, than the vast majority of the world’s population. So, what specifically can they do?
A number of yacht owners have already established foundations of their own to seek to address specific marine issues. A further initiative is developed between The Whirlwind Charitable Trust in partnership with a leading British university team. Their aim is to develop a web-enabled programme that will receive first-hand reports, in real time, from shore-side observers and yachtsman all over the globe. The programme will begin to identify and track, regionally and globally, the full extent and the trends of marine environmental threats. This provides material both for academic analysis and, probably more importantly, for political and popular profile-raising of the issues at stake.
Wendy Schmidt is an American philanthropist and competitive sailor who is passionate about understanding and restoring our planet’s Ocean and its connection to all life on Earth. Through the Schmidt Family Foundation, Schmidt Ocean Institute and other non-profit organisations, Wendy Schmidt has helped advance ocean science and research notably by providing a state-of-the-art research vessel Falkor (too) to scientists worldwide at no cost in exchange for making their research and discoveries publicly available. Schmidt also co-founded 11th Hour Racing to raise awareness of ocean health and solutions for sustainability in the sailing and maritime industry. An accomplished helmswoman – she recently became the first woman and the first American to win the Barcolana 54, the world’s largest sailing yacht race – Schmidt is helping shape the next generation of yachts, drive innovation in materials and lifecycle assessment tools, and educate the general public to understand the critical importance of our ocean.
Research vessel Falkor (too) of the Schmidt Ocean Institute is availablefor research
and ocean science. Wendy Schmidt, ocean conservation advocate and philanthropist [link]
Further information about above (and more) MARINE CONSERVATION initiatives:
- Schmidt Ocean Institute: schmidtocean.org + link to inhuis
- 11th Hour Racing Team: 11thhourracingteam.org + link to inhuis
- International Programme on the State of the Oceans: stateoftheocean.org
- Ocean Preservation Society: opsociety.org + link to inhuis
- Okeanos Foundation for the Sea: okeanos-foundation.org + link to inhuis
- Ocean Cleanup: theoceancleanup.com
- The Whirlwind Charitable Trust: whirlwindcharitabletrust.org.uk
“The marine environment: playing our part” was first published in a previous edition of inhuis: one of several stories which withstood the test of time. Therefore worth recycling and minimal waste on the environmental front!