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Volvo Ocean Race Scientific Data Reveals Millions of Tiny Plastic Particles in European Waters

The findings, revealed by scientists at the Cape Town Ocean Summit, have been discovered using data collected by Volvo Ocean Race yachts

by Jonno Turner
Volvo Ocean Race

Cape Town stopover. Dee Caffari during the Ocean Summit. Photo by Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race. 07 December, 2017.

Cape Town stopover. Dee Caffari during the Ocean Summit. Photo by Pedro Martinez/Volvo Ocean Race. 07 December, 2017.

Millions of tiny particles of plastic have been detected in European waters in ground breaking scientific research conducted as part of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The scientific research, using data collected by Race team ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’, identified over three million micro plastic particles per square kilometre of ocean.

The sub-surface data on micro plastic pollution levels was collected using a state-of-the-art instrument on board their Volvo Ocean 65 racing yacht.

The initial results, gathered during the Prologue stage and Leg 1 of the Race, between Lisbon and Alicante, were presented by Dr Toste Tanhua during the first morning of the two-day Volvo Ocean Race Ocean Summit, held in the event’s Cape Town stopover on Thursday. The samples collected during Leg 2 are currently being analysed and results will be revealed in due course.

“Our initial findings suggest that the levels of micro plastic in the ocean are significantly higher than we first expected,” said Tanhua, who works at GEOMAR, an ocean research institute in Kiel, Germany.

“This is alarming as the micro plastic not only harms a wide range of marine life, but, through entering the food chain, in species such as tuna and mackerel, can cause harm to humans, too.”

Micro plastic is small particles of plastic often invisible to the naked eye – and can take thousands of years to degrade.

Tanhua continued: “Existing scientific data only accounts for around 1% of all plastic in the ocean – but thanks to the support of Volvo Ocean Race and Volvo Cars, and the efforts of the Turn the Tide on Plasti c team in conducting this research, we’re building a knowledge base which is essential to ocean science around the globe.”

Read the full story here.

 

Sailors Tour Cape Town to Understand the Impacts of the Drought

Vestas 11th Hour Racing

Grant is given to Environmental Monitoring Group by 11th Hour Racing

Photo Credit: Vestas 11th Hour Racing

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (6 December 2017) – After sailing 7,000 miles from Lisbon, Portugal, the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, to realize that despite having been in the middle of the ocean, their access to fresh water was more consistent than what is available to many in Cape Town. Since 2015, this city and the surrounding area has been facing a severe drought, the worst in recorded history for the region, which climate scientists’ anticipate is a general drying trend for the western parts of southern Africa.

With this crisis in mind, 11th Hour Racing identified Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) as the recipient of their $10,000 grant in Cape Town – this is the third out of the 12 grants that 11th Hour Racing will award throughout the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean as part of their legacy project with Vestas 11th Hour Racing.

EMG is an independent, not-for-profit organization established in 1991. Its work covers a broad range of topics, tied together by the common thread to protect the natural environment and resources that sustain life. This includes fair trade farming, sustainable rural development, and raising awareness and highlighting solutions to the impacts of climate change in the region, including equitable access to water and social justice.

“The truth is that there is no silver bullet for Cape Town’s water crisis. There are no more rivers left to dam, and groundwater aquifers are finite. Desalination is energy intensive, and in South Africa, that means using more fossil-fuel and increasing CO2 emissions,” said Stephen Law, Director of the Environmental Monitoring Group. “At EMG, we are working with communities to reconnect with the value of water and respect for this resource. Discussing not only the best ways to conserve and reuse water, but looking to the future and asking if we should be changing the priorities of water use from swimming pools and green lawns to drinking water for all and water for local farming.”

To learn more about EMG’s work and mission, sailors from Vestas 11th Hour Racing, along with their partners at 11th Hour Racing, Bluewater, and staff from the Volvo Ocean Race, left the race village and headed on a tour of Cape Town.

Read the full story here.

52 Super Series is Setting Trends in Sustainability

By 52 Super Series

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By partnering with 11th Hour Racing in early 2015, the 52 Super Series made a formal, public commitment to tackle its carbon footprint head-on, and begin working to minimise its impact on the environment.

Fast forward three season to where we are now, and today, the 52 Super Series has exceeded its own expectations and is setting trends in sustainability. A hot topic, sustainability has gained its own momentum, and is embraced by competing teams, as well as local host organisations and partners. The 52 Super Series is changing minds and visibly making a difference wherever it goes.

Over the last few decades, the exploitation and degradation of our planet has gone up at an alarming rate. And whilst there is now a real public consensus about the fragile state of things, more often than not, good intent doesn’t translate into meaningful action. The 52 Super Series has been fighting to break that cycle by coupling positive messages with the power of sport. As a team of sailors who love and respect the sea, protecting the racing arena was a natural place to start.

It began with an official announcement, quickly followed up by the formation of a host agreement set out to align 52 Super Series host venues with certain environmental standards, such as waste management. Competing teams were immediately notified about the new strategic direction and encouraged to send a representative to the newly-regular sustainability meetings. The 52 Super Series joined the Green Sports Alliance, and worked hand-in-hand with 11th Hour Racing to develop an all-encompassing sustainability plan that addressed each layer of the organisation.

With new eco-friendly foundations, the newly appointed Sustainability Team started driving forward. In the public fight against single-use plastic, the 52 Super Series has completely removed plastic from its entire operation. No longer is plastic found in lunch packaging, included in lunches as cutlery or distributed by way of grab-and-go water bottles. A model for all sports, this alone has withdrawn a possible 60,000 bottles from circulation.

But plastic is only the tip of the iceberg. So too, have organisers found ways to improve the water supply, waste policies, food provision, fuel usage, materials and transport provision. The list of individual initiatives and policies employed by the 52 Super Series is really quite extensive, and three years down the line, it’s clear that other people and organisations are now seeing this, listening to the arguments, and carrying the important message forward in their own lives.

Sustainability Director for the 52 Super Series, Lars Böcking, reflects on the progress made:

“We are a small, but passionate team who are learning every day. We are incredibly proud of the progress we have made over the last three years. It is our goal to reduce our environmental footprint to nill, or even better: leave each place in better shape than the way we found it, but there is still some way to go.

Regarded as the best monohull racing circuit in the world, the 52 Super Series is a hotbed of top class sailing talent. All eyes are on us. We will reflect on the good work we have done and continue in our important role as influencers in sustainability.”

Given the success of the practical elements that make up part of the Sustainability Plan, the 52 Super Series is now very much focussed on the next steps, on using its influence in new ways.

Read the complete story here.

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