In the first in a series of interviews with leading Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), Northrop & Johnson talks to Clare Brook, CEO of The Blue Marine Foundation, on BLUE’s efforts to turn the tide and preserve the world’s greatest and arguably most important habitat for future generations.
Can you describe the Blue Marine Foundation in just one sentence?
We’re working all over the world to combat and find solutions to the biggest threat to the ocean: the destruction of marine life.
In your view what is the most pressing issue facing our ocean, both immediately and in the longer term?
The most pressing issue facing our ocean is the mass extraction of marine life and mass destruction of habitats. Biodiversity and climate are inextricably linked in the ocean; it is the complex web of life that enables the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Yet through the mass extraction of marine life and mass destruction of habitats, we are systematically stripping the ocean of the very life that regulates our climate and provides every second breath.
There are many organizations advocating for ocean conservation. What makes the Blue Marine Foundation different?
Our focus, our nimbleness and our pragmatism. We work to achieve genuine, lasting impact and apply a range of different solutions to any problem, be they political, scientific, financial, investigative, legal or by using innovative media. We come from a range of backgrounds, including journalism, finance, media and the law, so we can throw a range of solutions at any problem.
What more do you believe that our industry should be doing to promote ocean health?
We are facing the global cataclysm of climate change (which is also severely impacting ocean health) so the yachting sector needs urgently to address its use of fossil fuels by switching to fuel cells and sustainable sources of power such as wind and solar. Sustainable power at sea would also address the relatively unpublicized issue of ocean noise. Noise from engines has a devastating effect on whales, dolphins and other marine creatures.
Can yachting ever really be sustainable?
The origins of yachting – sails – are a wonderfully sustainable form of transport. It is only with industrialization that ocean transport became unsustainable. So a modern take on the old methods means the sector can indeed be truly sustainable.
How can yacht owners and charterers be an ally in your work?
In many ways. In particular, they must avoid ever anchoring on sensitive habitats such as coral reefs and seagrass. Seagrass absorbs carbon dioxide 35 times faster than rainforests, but careless anchoring rips up these ancient seagrass meadows by the roots. Owners and charterers must also be careful not to put any pollution in the sea: sewage, plastic waste, anti-fouling paint. All these can be catastrophic for the marine life that they are hoping to see.
How can we as individuals contribute to sustain and protect our ocean?
In two key ways: every individual has power as a voter and campaigner for protective environmental policies. Get behind the campaigns you believe in and email your MP to say you care about environmental policies in general and policies that affect our ocean in particular. Secondly, we also have choices as consumers. From choosing sustainably caught local fish or invasive species like lionfish to eating farmed mussels that regenerate biodiversity.
Do you think governments are using Covid as an excuse to push ocean conservation to the bottom of their to-do list?
They’re not just using Covid as an excuse; the ocean and conservation, in general, has always been low down governments’ lists. They think that voters don’t care about the ocean or climate change. The problem with democracy is that nature doesn’t have a vote and that’s why the planet is in the very parlous state it’s in.
What do you look forward to achieving with the Blue Marine Foundation over the next 12 months?
Further development of our cutting-edge divisions of Blue Marine, which include BLUE Carbon, BLUE Economics, BLUE Investigations and BLUE Legal.
How is the Blue Marine Foundation working to reduce plastics in the ocean?
Our focus is on overfishing, but ‘ghost’ fishing gear (vast plastic nets which have gone adrift and carry on fishing for years in some cases) count for a tenth of all plastic in the ocean but kill four times as much wildlife as the other 90 percent put together. We are working on solutions to this terrible problem.
What do you believe is the answer to overfishing and trawlers? Do you believe that sustainable fishing is achievable?
Tackling overfishing is BLUE’s whole mission, and there’s no simple answer. We tackle it through a combination of establishing marine protected areas, highlighting and calling out highly destructive fishing, demonstrating models of sustainable fishing which work for both people and nature, restoring habitats and species which have been overfished and developing films and education materials to highlight the problem of overfishing. We tackle the issue through policy and legal intervention. We highlight the climate impact of overfishing; by disturbing the seabed through bottom trawling, we are damaging the world’s largest carbon sink, largely unnecessarily.
What has been the biggest breakthrough in ocean conservation that you have witnessed in recent years?
The creation of vast marine protected areas has been a major breakthrough. Although only 7.8% of the world’s ocean is protected, this is a huge increase from less than the 1% a decade ago. A handful of governments, including the British, have committed to protecting at least 30% of their ocean estate. In the case of the UK, this has led to the protection of over four million square kilometres of ocean. The second innovation has been proving that it can be financially more viable to have a marine protected area than to allow it to be plundered by industrial fishing vessels. The third major breakthrough, which is still underway, is the discovery of just how much carbon is stored in the seabed. When fully quantified, this will change the nature of how we value ocean biodiversity and will make destructive fishing methods not only unacceptable from a scientific point of view, but economically unviable.
Is there one person/ initiative in the yachting arena that you would like to highlight here?
Peter Lürssen has been a visionary supporter of ocean conservation. We hope the whole sector follows his lead and generously supports the creation of huge marine protected areas.
To learn about how you can get involved in ocean conservation and The Blue Marine Foundation, talk to your Northrop & Johnson expert or go to bluemarinefoundation.com.
As a world-leading luxury yacht brokerage, Northrop & Johnson delivers professional services in luxury yacht sales and purchasing, private yacht charter, new yacht construction, charter management, crew placement and more. For all your luxury yachting needs and beyond, contact Northrop & Johnson today.