During a stopover in Newport, Rhode Island, the Volvo Ocean Race took part in an Ocean Summit on Marine Debris in a bid to raise awareness about the global problem of marine debris.
The Volvo Ocean Race is one of the world’s most demanding global competitions. During the nine-month race around the world, nine teams sail in some of the most dangerous waters on the planet.
From May 5-17 the race stopped in Newport, Rhode Island, and held an Ocean Summit to explore the topic of marine debris.
Sailors as witnesses
The Volvo Ocean Race is in a unique position to affect change. It visits 11 countries on five continents and traverses four of the world’s oceans. Sailors in this edition of the race, which has been contested since 1973-’74, have said that they’ve seen more debris this race than ever before. Some of it wraps around the underwater appendages and slows the boats, forcing the crew to stop and back down or send someone overboard to clear it.
Describing the Malacca Strait, which divides the Indonesian island of Sumatra from Malaysia, Charlie Enright, the race’s youngest skipper, said, ‘It was just disgusting – you almost felt like you could walk across that stretch of water on the trash there at one stage.’
Enright added that the Strait was by no means the only example of such a littering of all kind of debris in the oceans. The Rhode Islander said he believed young, round-the-world sailors like himself could play a vital role as witnesses to the issue since they sailed through waters rarely, if ever, seen by others.
‘The sailors have given us a call to action and we ignore it at our peril.’
Professor Dennis Nixon, event host and a leading Rhode Island-based academic
Finding a lasting solution
In a statement, Andreas Merkl, CEO of Ocean Conservancy, explained that the majority of plastic in the ocean comes from developing economies, where the increased use of disposable plastic goods is outpacing waste collection and management. Any lasting solution to the problem will require close partnership and coordination between the public and private sector, on a global level.