This week BOAT International has had the privilege of chatting with the legendary conservation photographer Cristina Mittermeier for our Big Boat Interview podcast, out now. Mittermeier was the keynote speaker at Ocean Talks 2023.
One of the most influential photographers of our time, Mittermeier has dedicated her life to protecting the world's oceans. She has travelled to some of the world’s most remote corners and has recently acquired a boat to help her with her mission, an 18-metre sailing catamaran called SeaLegacy 1.
Speaking to Boat International’s Acting Features Director, Lucy Dunn, Mittermeier describes how she made the leap from studying marine biology to photography, discovering that the best way for her to communicate climate urgency was to go behind the lens.
“The ocean is the largest ecosystem on our planet,” she says. “It moderates weather patterns, currents and our climate, so it’s hugely important that we care about it.”
The ocean is very close to collapse, she continues. Temperature and sea levels are rising, rising CO2 in the atmosphere has made water more acidic meaning plankton - the basis of life in the ocean, cannot grow.
Industrial fishing has also plundered marine resources and, she adds, “we have used the oceans like a dumpster for decades.” Compounding the problem is the fact that ocean preservation is significantly underfunded: it currently only gets $25 billion when the UN estimates it needs $170 billion.
Pictures often speak louder than words, and no one knows this better than Mittermeier. By broadcasting her evocative images and stories via books and magazines as well as to her platform of over 1 million followers, she is able to play a significant part in communicating the ocean’s plight. “I want to communicate urgency - to tell the world we need to pay attention.”
In 2014 she also co-founded SeaLegacy, a unique foundation which tackles marine protection in a very innovative way. Acting like a global marketing, education, and communication agency, SeaLegacy helps give small conservation projects the platform they need to raise funding, because, as she explains in our podcast, “the sea is not a big corporation like CocaCola and needs help to spread the message.”
The foundation has recently worked with organisations in Panama, Costa Rica, Columbia and Ecuador to create a protected migratory 'corridor' for marine life and is hoping to repeat initiative in Australia and Indonesia.
“I have such faith in the ingenuity of humans and we have turned things around several times in the history of humanity,” she concludes. “But we need to start realising there’s no Planet B.”
Ocean Talks 2023, held in association with Ocean Family Foundation, took place on 8 June at the Serpentine in London to coincide with World Oceans Day. The talks aim to bring together those who feel a deep connection to the ocean and the need to protect it.
Listen to the whole podcast below.listen on SpotifyListen on Apple