With nearly 200 yachts in attendance at the Monaco Yacht Show 2017 it presented the perfect opportunity for Y.CO to educate and inspire a captive audience of captains and crew with its Clearwater ocean conservation programme. To help do this Y.CO invited ocean advocate and Clearwater spokeswoman Emily Penn to deliver a fascinating talk on the subject of marine plastic pollution during two breakfast events on board both 55 metre Step One and 59.4 metre Oasis. Go inside the event with the video below:
Penn began her talk by describing the journey that led to her personal discovery of the plastic pollution crisis while sailing around the world as part of the crew on board the Earthrace eco-yacht. “One of the most shocking things was getting woken up by the sound of plastic scraping against the hull and washing up on deck when we were a thousand miles from the nearest land,” she explained.
Penn’s journey eventually took her to the remote Lifuka Island in Tonga where local fish stocks have been so severely depleted that the country has become reliant on imported packaged food. With no room for landfill sites the island either burned or dumped its waste into the ocean – a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common in the world’s most remote islands.
This in turn led Penn to discuss the issue of micro-plastics – tiny pieces of degraded plastic clogging up our seas and entering the food chain as fish mistake them for food. This, Penn explained, is not only harmful to the fish but also humans and other mammals who eat the fish. She had even gone so far as to have her blood tested for chemicals found in plastic but banned under any circumstances in foods for human consumption and found 29 of the 35 banned toxic substances tested for present in her system.
The good news however, said Penn, is that this is a solvable problem. Many waste management reduction and management schemes, such as beach clean-ups and a 5p charge on single-use plastic bags in the UK, are already in place but more must be done to tackle the problem at its source. Penn concluded her talk by posing a question to the captains in the audience: what are you going to do? “It can be very slow and difficult to make changes to national legislation,” explained Penn. “But on board a yacht [captains] are the law. You make up the rules and you have the power to change things for the better.”
Penn then handed over to Mike Gregory, captain of Dragonfly, the 73 metre yacht which has become an ambassador for the Clearwater project thanks to its relief efforts in Vanuatu and whole-hearted embrace of the idea of using superyachts for social and environmental good. “As the captain of Dragonfly I’ve been very fortunate to cruise the Pacific for the last six years,” said Gregory. “The amount of plastic in the ocean and on the beaches in some of the most previously pristine areas of the world is pretty tough to see. Single-use plastics are the number one problem and as yacht crew there are some very simple things, like installing water filters and providing reusable water receptacles, that can make a huge difference.”
“At Y.CO the aim of our yacht culture programme is to make sure that everyone is talking about plastic and how to fix the oceans,” concluded James Poole, Y.CO’s head of yacht culture. “We need everyone on board to understand this initiative, understand the effects of plastic and understand how they can solve it. As a result you get a great team ethos and that will snowball throughout the industry.”