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World Oceans Day 2021: The project you should support for ocean conservation

8 June 2021By Olivia Michel

Not sure which conservation project to support this World Oceans Day? Robert van Tol of Water Revolution Foundation makes a case for the funding of the Important Marine Mammal Areas program…

To honour World Oceans Day 2021, businesses within the superyacht industry are turning their sights to how best to support the ocean which is our lifeblood. From funding ocean clean-ups to using yachts for scientific research, there are a wealth of programs that can help preserve our oceans that require donations and support to do so.

Credit: Water Revolution Foundation / Sergey Uryadnikov / Shutterstock

If there’s one project that requires focus this World Ocean’s Day, it’s the Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMA) programme, says Robert van Tol, director of the Water Revolution Foundation (WRF), a firm that specialises in providing tools and information to the superyacht industry to help improve sustainability efforts from within.

The IMMA program is the first to be officially endorsed by WRF, which was initially set up in 2018 from inside the yachting industry “to create a collaborative platform to tackle collectively the environmental impact that we have as a sector, ” explains van Tol. "Our mission for the foundation is a bit of a hybrid, it's about both reducing the environmental impact of the yachting sector, and also looking after the oceans that we love – the very reason we go yachting in the first place.”

Credit: Water Revolution Foundation

The IMMAs program is orchestrated by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and has been set up to research and identify areas that are significant as habitats for a diverse variety of marine species.

Not only is it important to protect the welfare of animals within IMMAs, but IMMAs are crucial to the preservation of human life too. Magnificent marine animals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises help fertilise the waters where they feed, creating healthy habitats for phytoplankton – microscopic organisms that produce as much oxygen and absord as much CO2 as all the world’s forests and grasslands combined.

Credit: Water Revolution Foundation / Jeff Brown - Breed Media

Not protecting these key mammals could have devastating knock-on effects for global warming and climate change  – so supporting scientists in their efforts to identify these regions and make suggestions on how best to protect them is crucial.

Van Tol emphasises that IMMAs are not the same as marine protected areas. “The difference is, this is the step before,” says van Tol, explaining that this information is used “to adjust decisions and behaviour” at a governmental level; whether that means creating a marine protected area, figuring out where best to install windmill farms to reduce the impact on marine life, or introducing restrictions to protect the ecosystems, such as turning off sonars from passing Navy ships.

Executive director of Water Revolution Foundation, Robert van Tol.
Credit: Water Revolution Foundation / Pieter Magielsen

“A protected area [doesn’t] mean that human activity is going to be banned, because that in itself is not a sustainable way forward. It depends on the situation,” he adds. “The main goal is to collect the information that we need to make such decisions, and such decisions are made by governments.”

As many as 159 areas have already been mapped out in the southern hemisphere and the organisation is now turning its attention to the North Atlantic, for which WRF hopes to raise awareness. “The scientists behind IMMAs said we need to prioritise the Atlantic Ocean […] the northern hemisphere is the most impacted by human activity so there's also the most work to do,” says van Tol.

Credit: Unsplash

Stretching from Scandanvia down to Northern Africa and across to the Caribbean and North America, The North Atlantic Ocean covers approximately 20% of the planet’s entire surface – and encompasses some of the most popular superyacht cruising routes. Mapping this area will be a huge undertaking.

WRF is aiming to raise €550,000 to support scientists undertaking the project, and they are calling specifically on individuals and companies within the superyacht sector to help them do so. The superyacht sector has “a very unique clientele that is very powerful in their own ways,” attests van Tol, adding “we do need to find a role for the yachts and for the crew, in which they are really valuable and a great addition to the process.”

Credit: Water Revolution Foundation / Jeff Brown - Breed Media

CEO of Lürssen shipyard, Peter Lürssen, has already committed to supporting the new project, detailing that the Lürssen family foundation will match every euro raised through the crowdfunding campaign, allowing the project to begin even when only 50% of the target of €550,000 is reached.

“Most of us don't have the knowledge to make really informed decisions on where to put our funds. We have the interest and the will to contribute, but how do you decide which projects are the most effective?” continues von Tol. “And that's where we [WRF] want to help and ensure that this project is at least a very, very good destination for the funding.”

Credit: Water Revolution Foundation

But the IMMA project is just the beginning for WRF, says van Tol. "We plan to attract or to launch more projects that have similar effects of similar scientific value and add that to our program.”

To donate, head to waterrevolutionfoundation.org/immas.

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