Ocean Currents » Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:18:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Why I Support the March for Science http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/21/why-i-support-the-march-for-science/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/21/why-i-support-the-march-for-science/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:52:17 +0000 Sage Melcer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14214

Tomorrow, thousands of people around the world will take to the streets for the March for Science. It’s a strange concept—why is it important to come together and support science? To find out, I sat down with Ocean Conservancy’s President, Andreas Merkl, and asked why ocean science is so important to him, why he’s marching and why a British explorer and a Czech monk are his science heroes.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Do you remember a moment as a kid when you thought, “Science is freaking cool! I want to do that”?

There was no epiphany; it was an integrated curiosity that was constantly being fed by my family. My grandfather was an incredible man whose knowledge could tie everything together. He wasn’t just a scientist—even though he was, he was a mathematician, he translated Lord Byron’s works into German, he was a nature historian—he was a true renaissance intellectual.

We would go on these long walks along the Rhine [growing up in Germany], his walking stick always up in the air pointing at things. He would start with the cellular structure of oak tree bark and what a miracle it is and what a miracle it is that osmosis could suck a thousand gallons of water into one tree.

After being exposed to so many scientific disciplines growing up, why did you choose the ocean?

I think there are city people, desert people, mountain people and ocean people. There are also river rats, but river rats and ocean people are usually of a similar group.

I was a river rat to start with because I grew up on the Rhine, but the first books I remember reading were taxonomic books of ocean fish. Of course, every kid that grows up inland who becomes an ocean person has a story of that staggering epiphany when you’re 8 years old and the family station wagon rolls over the dunes to the ocean for the first time; and your mind is blown. Oh my god, if there ever was an epiphany it was that. And it wasn’t a stunning California beach either; it was some crappy beach at the North Sea! But back then, I thought it was paradise.

Who are your scientific heroes?

I have two: Alfred Wallace [of Britain who helped discover evolution] and Gregor Mendel [of the Czech Republic who discovered genetics]. Mendel was closest to the true spirit of science: purely curious, smart, humble and patient. He thought, “Huh…I just bred a white bean plant with a blue bean plant and I didn’t get a light-blue bean plant, I got another blue one. Isn’t that weird?” So this little monk says, “I’m going to figure this out”. Suddenly, a “Huh…” unravels genetics, along with a research design that is so staggeringly cool.

Wallace was the same. He had traveled to Sumatra, Java, Bali and it was all lush tropics; but he gets to Lombok and it’s a desert! So he asks, “Huh… Everything appears the same, so what’s different?” And from that “Huh…” he deduces island geography, and probably ahead of Darwin, evolution.

How have you seen the public view on science change throughout your career, and why do you think public demonstrations are important?

I’ve seen increasing attacks by people whose assets are threatened by systems science, increasing attacks on the principle and validity of objectivity, and the increase of press to accommodate that point of view.

At its core, what we’re saying is that the standard of objectivity remains sacred as ever. The fact there needs to be a demonstration on the streets, 400 years after the invention of the scientific method? To once again defend the principles of objectivity? It’s insane. I mean, it’s unbelievably important, but insane.

Oh by the way, I have a message for the people who say that message adds to the elite image of scientists; that message is [raspberry fart noise]. If there’s one bipartisan line in the sand we have to insist on that is not elite, its objectivity! It is by definition just what it is! Objectivity!

Many young people interested in science are hesitant about pursuing a career because of the decline in science jobs and funding. What’s your advice to them?

Begin with science and see where it takes you. If you start with science and you find it to be your passion, odds are you’re going to get good at it and the money will come. If you get sidetracked, so be it! You’ll find that you’ve learned the importance of objectivity, how to breakdown problems and countless other skills.

I also think the decline is narrowly defined to classic academia. What about Skybox, or Google Earth? I mean, we’re at the beginning of the most profound knowledge revolution EVER and you’re telling me that a good scientific mind won’t find a place in that?! Why that’s ridiculous!

What does it mean to you that Ocean Conservancy is a science-based organization?

EVERYTHING. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. I don’t know of many organizations that understand to the degree we do that the line between science and advocacy is blurring, and you can only be an advocate if you advocate for something.

So what’s that something going to be in the oceans? We really don’t quite know anymore. We could do the safe stuff… overfishing is always bad, pollution is bad, cutting down mangroves is bad; it’s the classic, “The bad man is coming to take it away, let’s stop the bad man” brand of environmentalism, but the sum of all that gets us nowhere with today’s systemic threats. So for us to ask questions like, “how do we put together creative management that is adaptive to the level of change?” is pretty cool.

Why are you supporting the March for Science?

Because it proudly supports the bedrock principle on which a modern enlightened and humane society is founded, which is the existence of a standard of objectivity against which everything else has to be measured: Objective truth. Once you do away with that, we’re thoroughly screwed.

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We Did Something Bold http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/21/we-did-something-bold/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/21/we-did-something-bold/#comments Tue, 21 Mar 2017 19:00:21 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13967

Today, Ocean Conservancy took a bold step.

I am proud to let you know my friend and colleague Janis Searles Jones has stepped into the role of Ocean Conservancy’s CEO as I assume the role of President. This mutual decision was unanimously endorsed by Ocean Conservancy’s Board of Directors.

Yes, this is unusual. But we live in unusual and uncertain times. The current U.S. political climate poses a challenge to the ocean and coastal communities, to put it mildly.  We need to be at our very best.  This move allows Janis and I to focus on what we do best. It builds on the extraordinary partnership that we have shared over the past four years here at Ocean Conservancy. Janis’s passion for our field work and conservation programs, extensive litigation and strategic experience, deep domestic policy knowledge and expansive networks makes her the best leader an organization could ask for as we navigate these uncharted waters.  I have had the privilege of leading the organization through a significant period of international growth. I will continue to prioritize this work in my new role with a focus on expanding Ocean Conservancy’s international climate work, cutting-edge fisheries management tools, and our global efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean.

Another change we have made to our senior leadership team is the promotion of Emily Woglom to Executive Vice President. Emily has been a key team member at Ocean Conservancy for seven years, first leading our government relations team, then expanding her role to provide strategic management of many of our programs—including growing our international plastics work.  Her domestic policy experience and ocean knowledge is vitally important as we respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead.  In her new role Emily will apply those talents to help shape the decisions we need to make as we look to develop and add to our strengths in a new political reality.

The future belongs to the optimists. We have just passed the two-month marker on the Trump administration. We are witnessing significant rollbacks on hard-won progress made under several Republican and Democrat leaders. While the challenges may seem unsurmountable, we at Ocean Conservancy are optimistic and hopeful. We are part of a wide and deep movement that shares our values of fairness, community and environmental stewardship. Our work remains grounded in the belief that the ocean and the people that rely on it transcend political parties and partisanship. Our new leadership structure is going to enable us to meet the challenges ahead in the US political landscape and take advantage of the opportunities internationally to expand our work.

Together, we will face the challenges in our path with grit, integrity and optimism. We continue to be smart and strategic about the big picture and little details. And no matter who holds sway in Washington, D.C. at any moment in time, we know the real power lies with the people.

You—our ocean champion—are our greatest strength. As Ocean Conservancy starts this new chapter, we are going to need you more than ever. We will continue to rely on your passion and commitment to weather the storms. We are going to win some, and we are going to lose some. But we stand strong. We will adapt. We will invest in the future in every action we take.

I could not be prouder of the work that we’ve accomplished together over the past four years. I could not be more excited to work with Janis as CEO in my new role as president. I invite you to celebrate this new path with us, and join us as we advance our common mission of protecting our ocean.   

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An Ocean of Thanks to YOU http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks-to-you/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks-to-you/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2016 16:10:35 +0000 Janis Searles Jones http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13363

The following message is from Janis Searles Jones, President, and Andreas Merkl, CEO.

This has been such a great year for the ocean, and I have you to thank for it. Protecting the ocean is a BIG job, and we can’t do it without people like you.

You’ve put in so much effort all year, that I want to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve accomplished together, celebrate our victories and look forward to the work still to be done.

Thanks to your hard work and support, here’s a taste of the incredible victories we’ve accomplished in 2016:

Hundreds of thousands of volunteers like you, all around the world, took part in our 31st annual International Coastal Cleanup. From the coastlines of the Philippines to the rivers of Pennsylvania, ocean lovers walked tens of thousands of miles and collected millions of pounds of trash, making our coastlines cleaner and healthier. And we have a plan to help cut the amount of plastic entering our ocean in half over the coming decade, so I hope I can continue to count on your support to help make that vision a reality.

Thanks to the support of ocean advocates (like you!), President Obama established two marine monuments: Papahānaumokuākea Monument—the world’s largest marine sanctuary—in Hawaii, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in New England. In just the span of a few weeks, Obama protected more U.S. waters than any other president in history. Together, we can ensure that these areas remain protected from special interests.

In the same year that Shell announced its withdrawal from oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea, the Obama administration just announced it will remove the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas—as well as the Atlantic Ocean—from risky offshore drilling until 2022. Exclusion of the Arctic in the five-year plan means critical protection for the communities and animals that call the region home. But with oil and gas companies still eyeing the Arctic, we’ll need your continued support to keep this fragile area protected.

After six years of hard work and boots on the ground in the Gulf, BP finally agreed to pay more than $20 billion to the American people to help recover from the impacts caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Now, scientists are working to make sure that money is well spent on restoration and monitoring projects to bring the Gulf back to a healthy state.

Revolutionary new ocean plans in the New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions made history by paving the way for smart ocean management. These plans brought together the needs of many, many stakeholders and will help us best manage our ocean resources for humans and the environment alike. With your help, we’ll work toward implementing these plans and expanding them to other regions.

Together, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a fisheries management act that is largely responsible for the strong state of our nation’s fisheries. You’ve helped us keep the Magnuson-Stevens Act strong, and our nation’s fish populations are healthier because of it. I hope I can continue to count on your support to make sure we have healthy fish populations for generations to come.

The United States took critical action to increase protection around the ecologically rich Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea. 160,000 square miles of ocean surrounding the islands have been protected as Areas to Be Avoided. Now, the Aleutian Islands, along with the wildlife and peoples who call them home, are safer from shipping accidents.

Ocean acidification is becoming more and more widely recognized as a problem both locally and internationally. We’re now calling on leaders worldwide to protect coastal communities and businesses at risk from acidification. And more than 18,000 people like you have signed Our Ocean Pledge to add your name to the effort—thank you!

All of these amazing ocean victories have one thing in common: YOU. I can’t thank you enough for your dedication and commitment to a healthy ocean. I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your support, and thank you for your commitment to our ocean. While there is a lot of uncertainty in the air, one thing remains true. The ocean is at the heart of all we do, and we need you to be effective ocean advocates. I hope I can continue to count on you as we continue to work tirelessly for our ocean in the coming months and years.

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We Are a United Front for Our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/09/we-are-a-united-front-for-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/09/we-are-a-united-front-for-our-ocean/#comments Wed, 09 Nov 2016 21:00:43 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13304

This is a hard post for me to write. Our country is exhausted after one of the most contentious campaign cycles in modern history. We now have a President-elect, Donald J. Trump, after an election season that leaves many Americans extremely unhappy and a nation deeply divided.

As a nonprofit organization, Ocean Conservancy does not support or oppose candidates for elected office. But now that the results are in, we can assess what it means for you as someone who loves the ocean, and what this means for Ocean Conservancy as an organization who works on your behalf.

The next four years will not be easy. It is going to be challenging to heal these rifts in order to move forward.

Personally, I was deeply troubled by the divisive tone and fearmongering that characterized the Trump campaign. There were attacks on people’s race, creed, color and religion. Those attacks are in sharp contrast to Ocean Conservancy’s core belief that we are all created equal and deserve respect, regardless of differing views.

I am also alarmed by the candidate’s track record on environmental issues. His false statement that climate change is a hoax is perhaps the most troubling indicator of how the new administration will approach one of the most critical challenges to our planet. In 2016 we should not have to persuade America’s leadership that climate change is real and happening all around our country and the world. We are already experiencing tremendous shifts in our ocean and particularly in places like the Arctic, as a direct result of climate change.

And I have grown increasingly concerned about many of the staffing choices being made by the Trump transition team on environmental issues. The Trump transition now includes key staffers who are widely known to believe that we should dramatically increase oil and gas drilling, and should roll back the bipartisan efforts of critical agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

What does this election outcome mean for our ocean?

As advocates that care passionately about our ocean and leaving a healthy planet for future generations, we must continue to speak up and present a united front in favor of smart, science-based solutions.

Let me assure you that Ocean Conservancy will continue to take the high road. Deep in our organizational DNA is the belief that protecting our ocean is truly nonpartisan. Despite the challenge ahead, we will work together with our partners and supporters to find solutions that protect people and our blue planet.

Some of our greatest accomplishments on behalf of our ocean took place under George W. Bush’s presidency—strengthening the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the establishment of the Northwest Hawaiian Marine National Monument, which was the world’s largest marine protected area at the time it was announced in 2006. Those legacies have, in large part, continued under President Obama.

While we will always strive to work with a new administration regardless of a President’s party affiliation, we also won’t back down from a fight if the health of our ocean is at risk. We will stand strong for our issues, stand strong for our causes and stand strong for our supporters who entrust us to work on these issues.

We will not back down. Ocean Conservancy reaffirms our commitment to protect what matters: thriving coastal communities, sustainable fisheries to feed America and the world, healthy productive marine life and our ocean that weathers this and future storms with strength, beauty and resilience.

We need you to stand strong too—with us.

Together, we are stronger.

Together, we are a united front for our ocean.

Onwards.

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An Ocean Perspective for a Planet at the Crossroads http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/07/an-ocean-perspective-for-a-planet-at-the-crossroads/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/07/an-ocean-perspective-for-a-planet-at-the-crossroads/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 20:50:11 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12805

A conversation between Ocean Conservancy’s CEO Andreas Merkl and Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and navigator of the iconic Hōkūle‘a, as Hawaiʻi hosts the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

With a shared passion for our ocean, Merkl (@AndreasMerkl) and Thompson spoke about experiencing unparalleled beauty on the water, the plague of plastic pollution in our ocean and the importance of bringing people together to find solutions.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society and Ocean Conservancy will be part of an International Coastal Cleanup organized by the U.S. Department of State in James Campbell Wildlife Refuge on September 9, 2016. For over 30 years, Ocean Conservancy has rallied the world’s biggest single-day volunteer effort on behalf of the ocean through the International Coastal Cleanup. (Please click here if you’d like to sign-up to cleanup on September 17, 2016.)

The following was edited for clarity and length.

Andreas Merkl: We are both ocean people because we really want to be, but it is rare to see anybody who is as connected as you are. Being as deeply connected to the ocean as you are, how do you square both happiness and sadness when it comes to the issues it faces?

Nainoa Thompson: My draw to the ocean is because I fell in love with it. I fell in love with it because of just the infinite beauty of life itself. It was the definition for me.

Through my journey around the world, we’re recognizing how much we’ve hurt the earth. We made a trip to Palmyra, sailing eleven hundred miles, a number of years ago, and we didn’t even get a single [fish] bite. It was like an empty ocean. We get a sense of the life not just by what’s in the oceans but by what’s in the air, the seabirds. It’s just clearly diminished.

AM: You have that visceral sense that it has been degraded, that there’s fewer fish, fewer birds. I’ve heard this from other sailors as well, lifelong sailors with many crossings, that say that sometimes there’s a sense of dread and loneliness that they feel now, because it seems so depleted.

NT: Yet when we got to the southern tip of Madagascar and the coast of South Africa, oh my God, it was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had.

AM: It’s teeming?

NT: It was like “Avatar” truly. There was so much bioluminescence. You could see so much. You could actually see small fish pass through the waters at night. It was just amazing. Then you get up to Cape Town, and it’s just teeming with those super pods of whales. We’ve seen the brilliance of life, too. We’ve seen just the amazing, amazing power of the ocean in certain spaces. We’ve also seen the emptiness.

AM: Tell me about what you actually see out there in terms of plastic pollution.

NT: What’s good about the deck of the canoe, because we’re not sailing with instruments, it requires the navigator to constantly be observing. They’re looking at the surface of the oceans all the time. It depends really on the conditions of the ocean to see plastics. If it’s windy and rough, they could be there, you just can’t see them. I’ll tell you, when you come in close to some of these countries, and I don’t want to blame any of the countries, but it’s pretty appalling, the amount of stuff that’s just thrown into the ocean with no regard.

AM: The science shows about 8 million metric tons a year going into the ocean. We’re putting as much plastic in as we’re pulling tuna out. There is already one hundred and fifty million tons in there. In ten years or so there will be two hundred and fifty million tons unless we do something.               

You spend a lot of time talking to leaders. I know that you had Ban Ki-moon on your boat. You talk to senior officials in the countries that you go to, and heads of state. Do you also talk to them about really concrete action?

NT: Many times what I do, like with the United Nations, it’s really trying to make connections between organizations and working with the leaders to try to bring some kind of larger unity to the movement of things like the Pacific Islands and the health of the ocean,  climate change, and all these kinds of issues. I’m trying to convene, and I’m trying to bring people together. I think that’s part of the equation to really have success.

AM: What is your journey for the next eleven months?

NT: Once we reach Montreal, we will start heading south towards Florida, and once we are in the Caribbean, we’re looking for inspiring stories as we make our way toPanama. In the Pacific side of Panama, we’re going to go out to at least Cocos Island, Galapagos, probably Ecuador. From Ecuador we go down to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to Polynesia. Then we go to Pitcairns, Marquesas. Then down to Tahiti.

The voyage home from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi is really a mechanism to unify Pacific leadership around the key issue of protecting the oceans.

You need to come with us.

AM:  I would love to!

 

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An Ocean of Thanks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 20:00:34 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11105

This has been a good year for the ocean. The hard work of ocean advocates — like you —has resulted in a series of victories moving us towards a cleaner, healthier ocean for the communities and animals that depend on it.

Join me in celebrating a few of the ocean successes we’ve seen over the past year:

  • Ocean plastic is now on the top of the international agenda, and we’re on the way towards an action plan to reduce ocean plastic by half.
  • The $20.8 billion BP settlement for their Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 is based on real science, on transparent governance and contains essential provisions for ocean health and science.  Things are looking good for the Gulf.
  • The Arctic regulatory environment is now configured in a way that post-Shell, new exploration in U.S. waters in the next decade is almost impossible. Things are looking better for the Arctic.
  • The International Coastal Cleanup celebrated 30 years. For three decades, Ocean Conservancy has inspired millions of volunteers around the world to clean up their coastlines. Last year, an astounding 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash — equivalent to weight of 38 blue whales. Things are looking better for our beaches.
  • We have pioneered a far better way to make ocean planning decisions in New England and the mid-Atlantic, and the first wind farm is a direct beneficiary of that.
  • We’re blazing new trails in figuring out entirely new approaches on how to think about commercial fishing.

None of these remarkable victories could have happened without you. I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your support, and I hope I can continue to count on you as we continue to work tirelessly for our ocean.

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Ocean Plastic is a Problem We Can Solve – Together http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/08/ocean-plastic-is-a-problem-we-can-solve-together/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/08/ocean-plastic-is-a-problem-we-can-solve-together/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 14:25:45 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10309

Charlie Enright, a Rhode Island native, is skipper of Team Alvimedica, the youngest of the seven international teams in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race which began last October and recently completed Leg 7 (out of nine) in Lisbon, Portugal. The Volvo Ocean Race is the world’s premier offshore race, an exceptional test of sailing prowess and human endeavor, which began over 40 years ago. At 30, Enright has already accumulated thousands of offshore miles and inshore racing results—including a Transatlantic and Rolex Fastnet Race in 2011. Before dedicating himself full time to the Volvo Race campaign, he worked at North Sails Rhode Island and managed multiple sailing campaigns for All American Ocean Racing. Charlie is an Ambassador for 11th Hour Racing, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation, which establishes strategic partnerships within the sailing and marine communities to promote collaborative systemic change for the health of our coastal, offshore, and freshwater environments.

You can follow Charlie on Twitter @enright_charlie or Instagram @cte02809.

Andreas Merkl is in his third year as CEO of Ocean Conservancy, a D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to the health and productivity of the ocean that covers over 70 percent of the planet. Merkl is an experienced strategist with a lifelong commitment to environmental causes. Prior to taking the helm at Ocean Conservancy, Merkl served as a principal at California Environmental Associates, a San Francisco-based think tank and consultancy focused on the management of the natural resource commons. Earlier in his career, he was a founding member of McKinsey & Company’s Environmental Practice and vice president and co-founder of the CH2M HILL Strategy Group, a leading provider of environmental management consulting worldwide. Andreas is on Twitter as @andreasmerkl.

Enright and Merkl:  While one of us is a native of Rhode Island and part of the Millennial Generation and the other hails from Germany and came of age in the 1970s, we share one thing in common – a great passion for the ocean.

Enright: As a sailor, I race through the ocean’s surface on some of the fastest sailboats in the world. The ocean is my home, and it is everyone’s backyard. When I’m not sailing, I try to get home to the Ocean State, Rhode Island, where I’m from and where my family – including my wife and soon-to-be-born son – make our home. Having grown up here, the sailing and the sea are in my DNA.

Merkl: And as CEO of Ocean Conservancy, I wake up every morning thinking about how to solve tough ocean challenges. When I can, I explore some of the deepest ocean recesses in my beloved dive spots of Indonesia.

Enright and Merkl:  We have different day jobs and have had different life experiences. But one thing we completely agree on:  the ocean, in every spot from the fragile Arctic to the most remote areas of the Southern Ocean, is besieged by plastics.

Enright: This is my first Volvo Ocean Race and I’ve been shocked by the amount of plastic debris seen throughout the first seven legs of the nine-leg race. I’ve sailed from Alicante on Spain’s Costa Blanca to Abu Dhabi, on to Sanya in southeast China, then to Auckland, Brazil and Newport before reaching Lisbon. The sailors have been surprised by the amounts of trash and floating plastic they’ve encountered, especially in stretches of ocean near population centers such as the Malacca Strait. The Volvo Ocean Race produced a short documentary film that includes the reactions of many of my fellow racers. Our goal in doing this is not only to increase awareness of ocean plastic but also to inspire action. As the skipper of Team Brunel observes, “Plastic, plastic, plastic…it doesn’t matter where you point.” We sailors agree:  the ocean is being overwhelmed by plastics and other debris even in the most remote spots, and it needs to be cleaned up.

Merkl:  I wish I could say that the teams of Volvo Ocean Race had an uncommon situation in their distressing encounters with ocean plastic, but that is simply not the case. It is a pervasive and proliferating catastrophe that, left unchecked, will continue to escalate until in a few short years – as soon as 2025 - we can expect to see one ton of plastic for every three tons of finfish in the ocean. We know from recently published research that approximately eight million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean annually from land-based sources. This has produced nothing less than a global crisis for ocean waters, marine wildlife and habitat, human health and safety, and wasted resources and lost revenues for many nations, especially those in developing countries where the economies are already strained.

Merkl and Enright:  But we are not without hope. We are optimistic because we CAN solve this problem.

Merkl:  At Ocean Conservancy we are working through our Trash Free Seas Alliance® with corporations, scientists and nonprofits – all working together to stem the tide of plastics entering the ocean from land. It’s a sophisticated strategy to support locally relevant waste management interventions in countries where the plastics leakage is occurring.

A mechanism must be implemented to ensure plastics are collected, securely transported, and then properly disposed of so that these materials are recovered and not lost to the ocean. In addition, there must be international collaboration of industry, governments, aid agencies and NGOs to advance efficient and effective waste management in developing economies where plastic leakage is currently greatest. With implementation of this two-pronged solution, we can begin to see drastic reductions in the amount of plastics that end up polluting the seas.

Enright and Merkl:  The ocean provides much of the food our global population consumes, along with the air it breathes and the waters that nourish it. In addition, the ocean provides for the two of us – and for countless others – the source of our greatest happiness and pleasure as we sail its waters and explore its depths. We owe this miraculous and marvelous system all we can muster to protect it and its inhabitants. Science has shown us where a large majority of the plastic waste is coming from and current research is showing us what we can do to stem the tide of plastics entering the ocean. Let’s make sure that future Volvo Ocean Races do not encounter the vast amounts of plastics that the 2014-2015 Race has observed. Let’s focus our efforts on solving this global problem – together.

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