Q & A with Live Ocean
In nutshell, what is Live Ocean?
Live Ocean is a marine conservation foundation. We partner with exceptional local talent whose work has global implications for the protection of life in our ocean. We use the power of sport to take their insights and the ambition for a healthy ocean to the world stage using the platform of global sailing events. We also aim to connect kiwis whether they’re surfers, swimmers or general ocean lovers to step up to the challenge to look after it. We have a responsibility as guardians to one of the biggest ocean spaces on the planet.
How did Live Ocean come about?
In 2018, our founders Olympic and America’s Cup sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke returned to Aotearoa New Zealand after nine months sailing around the world in The Ocean Race.
As sailors, surfers and divers they’d seen first-hand the escalating human impacts on the ocean, including the effects of climate change. Peter and Blair learned there is no time to be lost in the fight for a healthy ocean. That Aotearoa has a special role to play. They talked to scientists, iwi leaders and committed talent. They discovered that although we have one of the most significant ocean spaces on the planet and world-class talent, it’s chronically under supported. That many of the issues the ocean and life in it faces are out of sight.
They decided to establish Live Ocean as a way to trigger action and use their love for the ocean and global sailing events to amplify and accelerate the prioritisation of a healthy ocean. To connect people with the issues and back the talent. Competing at the highest level of international sailing provides a platform to take this message to the world stage. Peter and Blair aspire for us to be much better as a country. To be world leaders, so we can look the next generation in the eye and say ‘we did it.’ Live Ocean launched as a registered charity at the end of 2019 and we’ve just celebrated our 2nd birthday. There’s been a lot of hard work and so many people have helped us, it always blows us away.
You're involved in some pretty awesome projects at the moment (mapping the Southern Right whale etc), could you tell us a little bit more about these projects and how they contribute to creating a healthier ocean?
When choosing projects to support we look to three key areas to guide us – Science to understand; Outreach that connects; and Innovative solutions.
Each of these projects have different purpose but they all have the underlying goal of ocean restoration and protection. Although many of these projects are focussed on a specific topic like kelp or albatross, they also provide a focus for some of the really complex issues facing the ocean. The albatross for example has become a symbol for NZ’s seabirds, 90% of Aotearoa’s seabirds are threatened with extinction. It’s shocking.
Dr Emma Carroll’s research into the southern right whale is another great example. These whales are known to be a sentinel species of the ocean, meaning there is a strong connection between the health of the ocean and their breeding patterns. If these whales don’t have enough to eat or if they burn more energy traveling further to find food, then they will have babies less often, slowing population recovery rates down.
The whales are excellent sources of carbon capture, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates each whale sequesters 30 tonnes of CO2. They also fertilise phytoplankton which also capture carbon - a 1% increase in phytoplankton would be the equivalent to the appearance of 2 billion mature trees! By looking after the whales and encouraging their population growth we are inadvertently helping in the race against climate change.
The ocean is a big place, what does a-day-in-the-life look like for someone involved with Live Ocean?
Every day at Live Ocean is different. We’re a small team with big ambitions so we spend a lot of time connecting with others in the ocean community, especially the scientists and innovators who are running projects we support. We work hard to bring in donations to support them and we help share their work with New Zealand and the world.
Changing the way we, as humans, interact with the ocean is one of the biggest tasks humanity currently faces. Does your team ever feel overwhelmed by the task at hand? Or does it feel like there is some pretty wonderful momentum in this sector?
It’s a real mix of both and the challenges that face the ocean are enormous and often hard to see. Issues like climate change, ocean acidification, sedimentation and over fishing are largely out of sight and are much harder to bring people around than the plastics issue (which we don’t focus on as other great organisations are doing that).
We stay focused on the positive work happening within the sector as much as possible. The ocean community is brimming with so many incredibly passionate and innovative people who we connect with on a daily basis, it fills us with a great sense of hope and inspiration. It can be daunting at times, especially when acknowledging what the ocean, and the planet will look like if we don’t take action. However, that very real possibility is driving us to make change, do better and take our role as guardians seriously, so we have something positive to pass on to the next generation.
Looking forward, where do you see Live Ocean going in the future?
We’re excited to continue working alongside incredible projects and people. For us, quality rather than quantity is important as we want to ensure each project gets the full support and attention it requires to be successful.
Peter and Blair will continue to use their sporting platform to take these important messages to the world stage. We were incredibly proud to see them using their platform and the impact it had at the SailGP event in Cadiz, Spain recently. The NZL SailGP Team decided to highlight the plight of the toroa Antipodean albatross by adding an image of an albatross on their wing. This put toroa in the spotlight and lead to a video broadcast which shared the message with millions of people in 175 territories around the world.
And any hot tips for day-to-day actions that someone reading this can apply to their own lives in order to lessen their impact on the ocean?
Awareness and connection to what is happening below the waterline are two of the main barriers to change. Not many people realise every second breath of air we take comes from the ocean. It is one of our greatest assets in our race against climate change, yet is often forgotten. The ocean needs more people championing for it. Take the time to educate yourself around what is happening, especially any issues and project work happening within your local area. Share this knowledge with your friends and whānau.
Other things you can do are:
- Be curious about the ocean and the role it plays in a healthy future. Aotearoa is 94% ocean!
- Become a conscious consumer – know where your food and clothes come from and make informed decisions about what you choose to put your money behind.
- Support the mahi – there are many ways you can show your support for positive ocean action, from raising awareness on social media, to volunteering or raising financial support through fundraisers.
The Print Room are stoked to partner with Live Ocean to create a line of merchandise. 100% of the proceeds from the merch goes directly towards helping to fund the marine conservation projects Live Ocean support.
To see the range or to help support Live Ocean by donating, click here.