Talking about environmental conservation in the context of the superyacht industry can sometimes be like banging one’s head against a brick wall. They rarely go hand in hand and over the years the industry has casually welcomed environmental organisations and then waved goodbye to them equally effortlessly. The industry’s latest offering, however, seems to have sparked ongoing interest with a number of superyachts and companies already showing its support vocally and financially, begging the question: will 2014 be the year of the environmentally friendly superyacht industry?

Asociación Ondine has begun approaching the superyacht industry, vocalising its catchphrase “Science, Community and Conservation”, asking it to jump on board with the local community and work aid the association’s mission of improving the marine environment of the Balearic Islands. And the superyacht industry is responding; superyachts Aglaia, Vava and Beaugeste have already joined as members.

Superyachts and their crew are being asked to get involved via the Asociación Ondine two-part app, currently in development, which focuses on marine life and marine debris. In short, the app allows users to send information about marine life and debris in the vicinity and, automatically connected to GPS data, the app quickly builds up a collective intelligence database about the local environment. “Over time we’ll have a very powerful tool for locating where and when animals are spotted, which will make our science and conservation projects more efficient,” explained Brad Robertson, one of the founders of Asociación Ondine. “There are a lot of beach clean ups that go on that are really just marketing tools [but] when people send information about marine debris we can have a clearer picture of when and where the most rubbish is accumulated and our clean-up initiatives can be a lot more effective. In the future we’d like information about the possible sources of the rubbish, because the solution to this problem is not cleaning up the rubbish, it’ stopping it in the first place.”

With three superyachts already involved, as well as agreed app sponsorship by Master Yachts and Doyle Sails, the industry appears to have seen something in the project, and Robertson thinks captains are beginning to understand the need to take responsibility for their working environment. “Any money making venture has the responsibility to at least put something back into the environment they’re working in. If people want to enjoy the marine environment then there is a responsibility to make sure it’s one we can enjoy. To pull up a fifty-million euro superyacht into a rubbish dump doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it’s getting there. It’s definitely time for us to do something.”

Ibiza is just one of the Balearic's favoured cruising locations that could benefit from involvement with the project

“This is a traditionally sensitive subject,” added Captain Mark Stevens of Aglaia, gold member of Asociación Ondine. “We all want to be green and protect our environment, our place of business, but with the very nature of what we do, we don’t.  We run big fuel and power hungry vessels, we have petrol-based toys and PWCs, we fly food and supplies around the world for our guests; our carbon footprint is nothing to be proud of. [But] if we cannot change the way these yachts work… then let’s concentrate on areas we can improve and protect.”

And for Captain Stevens, the project and app provides a level of involvement not offered in the past. “[Asociación Ondine] has been the perfect group to do this. They know how to pick the battles that can be won, the areas that really need assistance, work closely with the locals, scientists and government – all things that we as visitors could never achieve on an individual scale. We know our money is being well spent and not just being dropped into a hole in the ocean with very little chance of any meaningful change. This is the way forward, individual yacht by individual yacht.

It will be interesting to see whether the superyacht industry really does jump on board this initiative or whether it will come and go like so many before. Yet the level of interest from superyachts and their crews holds promise for a different environmental landscape of our industry in 2014.

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