For the past week, scientists from the EPHEMARE (Ecotoxicological effects of microplastics in marine ecosystems) project have been on board Race for Water, studying ocean pollution. Hailing from England, Bermuda, the U.S., and Europe, they are a true team of experts. The Race for Water Foundation saw this visit as a chance to hold a broad-based discussion about pollution in our oceans. It’s certainly a hot topic for our guests and crew, who spent more than four hours in deep conversation, rigorously analyzing the issues and exploring a variety of viewpoints. This meeting of the minds provided a catalyst for further action on behalf of the oceans.
As the day of the colloquium dawned, energy engineer Martin Gavériaux sat on the solar-panel deck, waiting. Inside the yacht, everything was ready: flat-screen displays, video conferencing equipment, and the entire crew was ready to pitch in. Quartermaster Olivier Rouvillois was on photography duty, First Mate Annabelle Boudinot was at the microphone, Scientific Advisor Kim Van Arkel was on hand to provide support, Project Manager Luce Molinier handled logistics and organization, and Offshore Captain Pascal Morizot and Mate Anne Le Chantoux were in charge of security. All that was missing were the guests. A few minutes later, some 20 people came on board and took their seats in the on-board meeting room. Everyone was quiet, as the colloquium began.
First, Anne Hyde, Executive Director of Keep Bermuda Beautiful, spoke about the various activities in the Bermuda Marine Debris Taskforce’s portfolio: beach cleaning, school-based educational programs, trash art, quantitative studies on Bermuda’s beaches, and new initiatives. The attendees listened and took notes. Then, local leaders and experts involved in plastics pollution prevention spoke.
- Robbie Smith, a researcher at the Bermuda Aquarium’s Natural History Museum and chief scientist of the Bermuda Marine Debris Taskforce
- Shane Antonition, of Plymouth University, spoke about his research on microplastics on Bermuda’s beaches
- Vanese Gordon, of the Bermuda Government’s Waste Management department
- Jennifer Gray, director of the Bermuda Turtle Project
- Kyla Smith and Rebecca Garley of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science
- Amy Munro, Sustainability Officer for the Land Rover Bar at the America’s Cup
- Dörte & Hanna Horsfield, Education Director at the Bermuda National Trust
- Jennifer Pitcher, Sustainibility Director & Outreach Program Director, America’s Cup
- Gilles Lorimer Turner, Post graduate student, University of Cardiff (UK)
Martin Gavériaux then presented the results of the scientific study conducted during the first Race for Water expedition in 2015. The team found plastics pollution literally everywhere: on every island they visited. There is a real need for solutions, and that’s the inspiration behind the current Race for Water expedition; it’s an odyssey of hope. Next it was Annabelle’s turn to talk about the yacht itself, its on-board systems and the labs and other equipment that the scientists have on board.
Annabelle was followed by a young researcher from the EPHEMARE project, Camila Carteny. She told the group, “We’re here to study Bermuda’s waters, because they’re an excellent representation of the situation in the North Atlantic gyre, and the research was launched in 2015.” The presentation was detailed and instructive, including specific information about the protocols used. Attendees asked: When will the results be published? Will they have any influence on political and local decisions about plastics pollution and marine conservation? Scientists from different institutions challenged each other, learned about their colleagues’ research, and envisioned collaborating in the future. On board Race for Water, the Foundation’s dream was coming true: global stakeholders coming together to open a dialogue and take action. Without a doubt, this meeting left everyone with a strong desire to work together, and an equally strong desire to work on legislation to decrease the environmental burden of plastics pollution in the oceans.
These words last only a moment; and for that moment, we all see ourselves as advocates for a clean ocean… The Race for Water Foundation’s goal is to spark sustainable, ongoing actions and discussions, so we’ve created a platform called WGE and made it available to the colloquium participants. It’s a single point of contact where scientists, local associations and governments can interact, to organize local actions and share content.