The world’s oceans are in crisis. Having endured a devastating loss of over 90% of large fish - and with vital habitats eliminated - the fragile marine ecosystem that nurtures our planet and enables our human survival is being stretched to its limits. The oceans provide half the oxygen we breathe, absorb 40% of our CO2 and regulate our climate. But they can only perform these vital functions if they are full of life. On a mission to combat the overfishing plight, the UK-based charity Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) has embarked on a journey to protect our oceans’ last reserves by delivering strategic conservation solutions. Photo: Denys NovozhaiEstablished in 2010, BLUE is directing its efforts towards the creation of large-scale marine reserves and the introduction of sustainable models of fishing. Over the course of its nine-year lifespan, BLUE has successfully secured the protection of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, Ascension Island in the Atlantic and the first marine protected area in the Caspian Sea, as well as restoring tens of thousands of oysters to the Solent and initiating various projects for the protection of endangered marine species.Aiming to put 10% of the world’s oceans under conservational protection by 2020, and 30% by 2030, SuperYacht Times sat down with BLUE supporter and Lürssen CEO, Peter Lürssen, to find out more about his involvement with the charitable organisation. Photo: Amanda PhungHow did you first get involved with the Blue Marine Foundation?
I had dinner in London with Charles Clover and George Duffield, two of the people who started BLUE many years ago, and at that dinner, I realised that I really understood the importance of BLUE. It was then that I offered to personally pay for the operating expenses of the foundation so that they could tell the other donors that the expenses are covered and that way, everything donated could go directly into helping the oceans. I did this for a number of years and then we decided that Lürssen should donate too. I liked the concept: I paid for the expenses while the company started giving additional support.Photo: Ishan SeefromtheskyHow has your involvement with BLUE developed?
Two years ago, we had a Blue Marine event about saving the ocean’s coral, and the CEO Clare Brook told me that they needed two million pounds to secure the largest marine protected area in the Atlantic. I told them that I would pledge one million - a pound for a pound - if the other members of the industry also donated. I thought that if all the other shipyards got involved, we could get to two million pounds. But there was very little response.
Then I realised that there are only a little over 700 people living on Ascension Island and we were basically asking these people to sacrifice income from the sale of fishing licences to create a huge marine protected area. As we did not get anywhere with raising the money, I pledged the full two million pounds because I felt so strongly about helping the islanders and creating the marine reserve.
Then this year we had a party in Monaco onboard Amadea, and luckily Imperial spontaneously donated £250,000 which was amazing. Then I convinced the CEO, Evgeni Kochman, to contribute together with me even more money to pay for all the projects Blue Marine had listed in their brochure. It’s people like Evgeniy Kochman that are great because they have an instinctive feeling about helping the oceans.
Photo: Guillaume Plisson / ImperialHow did BLUE pitch their idea to you? Why does it resonate with you so personally?
The greatest holidays I’ve ever had with my family have been on yachts and my kids love the sea. You don’t need to see any tough movies about how whales are slaughtered because you can see that our oceans are depleting. When I was a bit more fit, I used to go scuba diving and see the marine life, so when you suddenly realise that it’s gone, you ask ‘wait a minute, what’s going on here?’
Protecting biodiversity in the oceans is critical if we are to limit excessive global warming and Blue Marine has a portfolio of many ongoing projects, including one in the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily. I just happened to be in the Aeolian islands with my family on a chartered yacht and the whole family liked the idea of doing a project there. I support kindergartens in Germany, I support classical music because I love classical music and I support Blue Marine because it really means something to me.
I think that the whole industry should realise that we all live from the oceans. Therefore, I think we should spend more money on protecting them. Photo: Guillaume Plisson / ImperialWhat is BLUE’s plan-of-action? What can we look forward to?
The next project is another island, south of Ascension Island, which is the most remote inhabited island in the world, Tristan da Cunha It’s 2,700 miles from South Africa and 3,700 miles from Brazil, where there is the potential to create a vast marine reserve of 700,000-square-kilometres. Blue Marine is also on track to create marine protected areas around other UK overseas territories, including off the coast of Cyprus.
We need to protect the oceans by way of creating large marine protected areas. It’s a process and you need to help the inhabitants of these islands to treat the territories in a responsible way. Look at the island of Tristan da Cunha (a bird sanctuary) in the South Atlantic. We are asking the 250 people living on the most remote inhabited island in the world to make a huge commitment to help secure the future of the world’s biodiversity. So, I think it’s necessary that we all donate money so that they can have a transport link to South Africa without having to rely on an industrial fishing fleet in order to secure supplies. A donation of £500,000 to secure 700,000-square-kilometres of Southern Atlantic biodiversity – it’s got to be the best value piece of conservation in the world! Photo: Jong MarshesWhat is your ultimate goal as a supporter of BLUE?
I don’t want or need recognition, but what I would like is that our industry in which we are dealing with a lot of money pays a certain responsibility for the well-being of the oceans. The oceans aren’t what they used to be. We all should donate what we can, 10 pounds, thousands or millions of pounds, and, more importantly, get the ideological support to protect our oceans. Some can afford more, some less, but the thing is, it’s important that we make them all aware and remind them that we all live in a very fragile ecosystem.
For more information on the work of the foundation, visit : www.bluemarinefoundation.com