Seeking healthier waters in Menorca and beyond
Sunseeker and Blue Marine join forces for Project Menorca, aimed at protecting the seas around this popular Balearic island.
It’s no surprise that Menorca is a big hit on the superyachting circuit. With over 200kms of unspoilt coastline and countless secluded coves, the island has a lot to offer those searching for a superior slice of the quiet life. But like so many popular sailing destinations, it could be facing a fragile future. Enter Blue Marine, a charitable foundation on a mission to create marine-protected areas and establish methods of sustainable fishing around the world.
“97% of living space on the planet is in the sea,” explains Rory Moore, a project manager at Blue Marine. “Of this area, less than 6% is protected, which is worrying. If we continue as we are, I suspect we’ll have no fish left within the next 20 years. That is not only worrying for habitats and industries such as tourism, it’s worrying because a quarter of the world’s population relies on fish as their primary source of protein.”
The foundation has projects all over the world – from Scotland to Belize – and has just announced its latest endeavor, Project Menorca, prompted by their recent collaboration with British superyacht builder Sunseeker.
“We were keen on finding a project in the Balearics as it’s such a key boating market for us,” explains Simon Clare, marketing director of Sunseeker International. “We specifically asked Blue Marine to go and find a tangible project that would really resonate.” As it happened, the timing couldn’t have been better. Menorca had long had a marine protected area to the north of the island but it had recently lost funding and fish stocks were starting to reduce as a result. “This was a brilliant time for us to step in, supported by Sunseeker,” says Moore.
It was also music to the ears of Rebecca Morris, director of the Menorca Preservation Fund. Founded just a year ago by Ben Goldsmith, the aim of the fund was to raise money to support ongoing environmental projects in the area. “When Rory came along and explained that they’d partnered with Sunseeker, that was amazing for us,” explains Morris. “We had just identified a number of projects that needed to be worked on, so it was all perfect timing.”
One of those projects was the proposed expansion of the island’s biosphere. The land of Menorca had been declared an official UNESCO reserve for 20 years, but for whatever reason, the area it covered hadn’t been expanded out to the sea. “Obviously that was mad,” explains Moore, “so now there is an initiative to push it out 12 miles to protect the waters around Menorca as well as the land.” If it gets the green light, it will become the biggest biosphere reserve in Spain.
Alongside efforts to grow the biosphere reserve, Project Menorca will also be focusing on sustainable fishing, single use plastic reduction, education and more. One of their initiatives is the development of a network of innovative ‘eco-moorings,’ which will protect seagrass beds and improve the environmental impact of tourism. There are also plans to introduce a ‘code of conduct’ to the island’s 150 fishermen, a model that Blue Marine has already had success with in Lyme Bay in England. “It’s hard to close down an entire area to fishing altogether but what you can do is encourage sustainable fishing,” explains Moore. “Creating marine protected areas and establishing methods of sustainable fishing usually go hand in hand.”
The project has plenty more objectives besides, including the removal of plastic waste and harmful ‘ghost’ fishing nets from the water and the distribution of thousands of recyclable bags to local fishmongers.
Sunseeker aren’t limiting themselves to Menorca and have ambitious plans to roll out similar schemes elsewhere, once this project is off the ground. “Yes, we’ll start here in Menorca,” says Clare, “but we are looking at going further afield and plan to build these projects around the world. The Blue Marine Foundation have a mission to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030 and we want to be part of that. If we don’t do something quickly, our next generation of boaters aren’t going to have a particularly nice environment to go sailing in. We really can make a difference together.”