A call to action

Text by Jonno Turner
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A call to action Text by Jonno Turner
“It was just disgusting," remembers Team Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright.

"You almost felt like you could walk across that stretch of water on the trash there at one stage.”

As he stands in front of a room full of delegates and media at the Volvo Group's Ocean Summit on Marine Debris in Newport, he's describing the Malacca Straits, which the Volvo Ocean Race fleet navigated during Leg 3 of this race from Abu Dhabi to Sanya.

The event, which took place earlier today, featured a list of speakers representing all sides of the issue, including academia, national and local government, pressure groups, philanthropic agencies, and the corporate world/

Charlie gave some graphic examples of how choked up with rubbish some of the areas the 2014-15 race has visited have become.

And he stressed that the Strait was by no means the only example of such a littering of all kind of debris in the oceans.

The 30-year-old skipper said that 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.

And UN Ambassador, Eden Charles, of Trinidad and Tobago, agreed - inviting Charlie and Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad, who also spoke passionately on the issue, to address a United Nations convention later this year focusing on the growing problem of rubbish in the oceans.

“Our challenge is not only to bring this issue to the attention of the world’s nations, but to get regulations to clean up the oceans implemented by all of them,” said the Ambassador.

“To hear a current sailor speak on this issue with first-hand knowledge, plus the Race’s head, will be a very strong message indeed to our convention in New York.”

Henry Sténson, executive vice president of Corporate Communications and Sustainability Affairs for Volvo Group, added that, “Marine debris is negatively affecting the oceans and oceanic life, and it’s clear that we all have a responsibility to help institute changes."

Other delegates included influential Rhode Island Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, who speaks regularly on marine conservancy and other environmental topics at national government level in the USA and who has also helped introduce new legislation to conserve coastal areas.

“Debris is a serious problem for marine ecosystems and coastal economies,” he said.

“In Rhode Island, I’ve seen first-hand how it can foul our coastline and hamper economic development and recreation.

"The Volvo Ocean Racers have seen how far offshore this pollution reaches. I’ve also seen how partnerships between government, private industry and motivated citizens can deal with this problem.”

The event was hosted by Professor Dennis Nixon, a leading Rhode Island-based academic based in the state university.

After hearing the warnings that, left unchecked, there could be one tonne of plastic in the oceans for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, he suggested a 15-year deadline to reverse the trend.

“The sailors have given us a call to action and we ignore it at our peril,” he said.