Charles Clover of Blue Marine Foundation, judges and sponsor of BOAT International's Ocean Awards

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Charles Clover, co-founder and senior advisor of Blue Marine Foundation and Ocean Awards judge

Meet the Ocean Awards judge Charles Clover of Blue Marine Foundation

26 January 2024 • Written by Hannah Rankine

In anticipation of the upcoming Ocean Awards, in partnership with Blue Marine Foundation, BOAT International's Hannah Rankine sits down with Charles Clover, Ocean Awards judge and co-founder and senior advisor of Blue Marine Foundation. Clover sheds light on the remarkable efforts of Blue Marine Foundation in safeguarding our threatened oceans.

What is Blue Marine Foundation?

Blue Marine Foundation is a charity set up to address the global problem of overfishing and create marine protected areas. That is just one of the solutions to overfishing and we have broadened that agenda since we started 14 years ago. We came about after I wrote a book called The End of The Line, which became quite a successful feature documentary and went to the Sundance Film Festival. This started a conversation around the global problem of overfishing.

What made you decide to launch Blue Marine Foundation?

I have specialised in addressing the marine crisis and overfishing and have brought them to prominence. But my other two co-founders, George Duffield and Chris Gorell Barnes, were the ones who pushed the creation of Blue Marine Foundation. I was quietly trying to set up a charity with an MP friend of mine, but I had no idea how to raise money for it. As a journalist, that's not something you tend to know how to do. So, these two guys who did know how to raise money managed to get us registered as a company, and then as a charity. So, hats off to them. But we were all working on the same thing and whilst the three of us are very different, we came together and combined our strengths to create Blue Marine Foundation.

What is Blue Marine Foundation’s greatest achievement to date?

I think what David Cameron's government eventually named a ‘Blue Belt’ - a series of marine conservation zones - around the British Overseas Territories is one thing, and protecting the Dogger Bank - a large sandbank in the North Sea - is another thing. Both were collaborations Blue Marine had a large part in. One of our greatest triumphs was reminding the UK government that having given up the Common Fisheries Policy, the offshore marine reserves that were created are now under our control, in other words, protected by law. We threatened the government with legal action if it didn’t protect the Dogger Bank and we got the two most damaging fishing methods – trawling and dredging – banned. We are challenging the British government on why it is allocating fishing opportunities above scientific advice.

Would you say that overfishing is the biggest threat to our oceans today?

Yes. Fishing exists everywhere in the ocean. It is limited in very few places with just eight per cent of the world's ocean protected in some way, but 90 per cent of the ocean is open to fishing. Fishing kills fish and lots of other creatures and is therefore the most disruptive influence on the oceans. It could be managed a lot better. We have supported fishermen in our designated marine protected areas in fishing less to have more. But the fundamental driver of overfishing is the ability of nations such as Norway, the EU and the UK to get in a room and give themselves more fish than nature can provide. It is just ludicrous. If it stops, we will have healthy oceans, and that is our goal. We are now big enough, strong enough and well-funded enough to take on some of these battles, which we could only dream of taking on 14 years ago.

Why do you think the Ocean Awards are so important?

The Ocean Awards bring to the fore heroes out there who are trying to solve some of the biggest environmental problems in the world. We have a problem with the climate and with the oceans, so who are the people who need our support? Who are the people we should put on a pedestal? Unless somebody creates a system of valuing them - and these awards are intended to do that - then nobody will know, and these people will continue working without anybody appreciating what they're doing or getting enough money to continue their work. That is what I'm proud of with the Ocean Awards.

What is the greatest challenge in running an organisation like Blue Marine Foundation?

An organisation like Blue Marine Foundation could not exist without the generosity of its donors, and finding more of those has been our work. There are lots of very like-minded, committed and marvellous donors that have supported our strategy and goals, but I think it is very difficult to go from being a small charity to a medium-sized one, let alone a large one. If you don’t have the money you won’t have any growth but we have convinced people that this is a just cause and I am very grateful to them.

What do you hope to achieve with Blue Marine Foundation? Where do you hope to see the state of the ocean in, say, 10 years’ time?

We have created many marine protected areas across the globe, and they have got quite a lot of momentum now, particularly in places like South America. In domestic waters, we have still not solved the most important problem, which is that we are allocating more fishing opportunities that nature can stand. I think that we have to solve that problem in our own country first and then be an example to the world that we can take elsewhere. We have set up better systems in other UK territories, so it is our focus now to come back and manage UK waters a lot better first so that we can be an example to the rest of the world.

What can the superyacht sector do to support Blue Marine Foundation and the work that you do?

You can join the Blue Marine Yacht Club. It's a virtual yacht club that binds members into helping fund our strategic objectives of tackling overfishing, creating marine reserves, and so on. You can make sure that sewage is pumped out on shore and does not pollute the ocean, you can avoid anchoring on seagrass beds, and you can even host the odd scientific expedition on board too.

The Ocean Awards recognises and rewards those that share our commitment to fixing the crisis in our oceans, from local heroes to renowned scientists and pioneering innovators. Nominations for the Ocean Awards 2024 are now closed. If you have any questions, please get in touch with the events team.

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