The yachting crowd unites to conserve the oceans
Water Revolution Foundation is leading a new approach to ocean conservation, and hoping to draw a crowd.
The launch of Water Revolution Foundation back in 2018 represented an important turning point for the superyacht industry. Until then, despite well-intentioned but fragmented efforts, there simply wasn’t an organisation ready and able to take the lead in driving sustainability. “We knew we needed to have a coordinated programme that involved all players across the sector using the same tools to progress,” says Robert van Tol, executive director. “Nothing is worse than a completely divided and uncoordinated sector. If everyone goes off on their own path, that’s not going to cut it.”
In just a few short years, the organisation has proved itself to be a vital and highly respected platform, with a serious, strategic approach, and a mission led by science, not to mention some of the biggest names in the yachting business.
The foundation’s special education programme has already been a huge success, created to bring employees across the industry up-to-date with sustainability. And meanwhile, there is the revolutionary Yacht Assessment Tool – empowering decision-makers across the design, build and refit sectors with the information they need to make more sustainable choices. There is far more going on besides, including a useful database of sustainable solutions and a groundbreaking yachting transparency index, designed to allow superyachts to be compared by their eco-credentials.
Now, the organisation is adding yet another string to its bow: ocean conservation. “The oceans that our industry treasures are in danger,” says van Tol. “Time is ticking, and it is not enough to tackle the symptoms anymore, the solution lies at the heart of the problem.”
The foundation has chosen to support the existing IMMA programme as part of that solution. Standing for Important Marine Mammal Areas, the programme uses a scientific approach to identify areas of the ocean that are important for marine mammals. “When seeking to protect the ocean, we need to know where to start,” explains van Tol. Once IMMAs are identified, the idea is that they can then be prioritised by governments, conservation groups and the general public.
Robert van Tol. Photo: Tom van Oossanen
Robert van Tol. Photo: Tom van Oossanen
“Everything in nature has a purpose and humans often miss that point,” continues van Tol. “If you see a whale, it’s not just swimming around, it’s doing an important job.” Indeed, whales fertilise the waters, creating healthy habitats for phytoplankton, thereby maximising the carbon-offsetting potential of the ocean. “To protect the ocean’s smallest inhabitants, it is paramount that we save the largest,” adds van Tol. “We can’t develop technology anywhere close to nature-based solutions – so we need to make sure that we don’t hinder them. In fact, we need to align with them.”
Conservation in the areas identified will help multiple marine mammals survive, from whales and dolphins to sea lions and polar bears. The data collected along the way will also allow for more informed shipping operations with concrete guidelines on how vessels should behave when passing through these areas.
159 IMMAs have already been identified across the Southern Hemisphere, and efforts have now moved to the Northern Hemisphere. Water Revolution Foundation’s crowdfunding campaign is raising funds specifically for the North Atlantic, a heavily trafficked area of the ocean and a popular route crossing for superyachts heading between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
The crowdfunding effort is aiming to reach all levels of the yachting community – from big shipbuilders and brokers to individual crew members and superyacht owners. “The oceans are vital for all of us and we all have a role to play in saving them,” says van Tol. Happily, the big names in yachting are offering their support, and in the case of German shipbuilding family Lürssen, going the extra mile in encouraging others. “I would like to express our family’s full commitment to the IMMA programme and underline the urgency to start the North Atlantic project as soon as possible,” Peter Lurssen confirmed. “Through our private family foundation, we commit to matching every euro raised through this crowdfunding campaign, which means that the project can start when 50% of the target of €550,000 is reached.”
There is no time to lose and, in fact, the creation of Water Revolution Foundation itself was spurred on by the goals of the IMO and the European Commission to reduce carbon emission by 55% by 2030. “That’s basically two generations of yachts or two yacht deliveries if you count in single yachts if you factor in lead time, build time and all the rest,” says van Tol. “That’s a game-changer and a real call to action.” Now, the yachting community must step up to the plate.