By Ivonne Gamboa
The International SeaKeepers Society is at the frontline of ocean conservation and continuously working towards their motto of “Research. Educate. Protect and Restore.” SeaKeepers is a non-profit organization dedicated to the facilitation of oceanographic research, conservation, and education through direct involvement with the boating community. SeaKeepers enables vessels to take full advantage of their unique ability to visit every corner of the world by advancing marine science aboard private vessels and raising awareness about global ocean issues.
The DISCOVERY Yacht Program is the organization’s foremost initiative in accomplishing their mission and goals. The program is comprised of Scientist-led Expeditions, Citizen Science which includes instrument deployment, Educational Outreach events, and Community Engagement activities. SeaKeepers collaborates with numerous organizations, academic institutions, and government agencies in order to accomplish its DISCOVERY Yacht missions. SeaKeepers staff works closely with vessel owners and crew to coordinate research and outreach activities that reflect each owner’s ocean-related interests. The extensive DISCOVERY Yacht Fleet has provided support to ocean conservation in all corners of the world and is recognized in numerous scientific articles published by Program Partners.
A key area of focus in 2021 has been the effects of carbon emissions and with the upcoming launch of SeaKeepers’ dedicated website this month and the Guide to Green Boating in 2022, this information will provide resources for individuals and boaters alike to balance their carbon footprint with eco-conscious practices.
“SeaKeepers gives yacht owners, crew, and boaters an opportunity to give back and help out via our DISCOVERY Yacht Program, wherein a vessel is used as the main platform for research expeditions and outings, educational outreach, and conservation efforts,” says Program Director, Tony Gilbert. “We also recognize that yachting and boating carry a responsibility to enjoy the marine environment in the most sustainable way possible for a number of reasons. Not only would it be quite disappointing to go to your favorite dive or snorkeling site, only to see dead, bleached corals, and virtually no fish or other reef inhabitants, but on a deeper level, this points to a more dire situation where entire ecosystems are suffering, and this can have larger repercussions down the line. Yacht owners can either be part of the problem, or part of the solution. And we hope they choose the latter.”
Expeditions can range from afternoon trips collecting water samples, to providing a platform that serves as a “floating classroom” for students, to a week-long trip with a team of expert researchers. Vessel owners who generously donate time aboard their yacht receive recognition and benefits which include: tax benefits to the extent allowed by law; acknowledgement at SeaKeepers’ events; credit on the website; and features in the quarterly digital newsletter distributed to thousands of like-minded individuals.
“I’ve been living in Southern California my whole life and I can see how things have changed in our waters – you can just tell the ocean is not what it used to be up our coast. So, I thought, if I’m going to do something, why not enjoy and make it meaningful,” says owner of DISCOVERY Yacht Cabrillo, Steve Marcin. “I want to do something that’s on my terms that I enjoy doing that is a good cause. So I found SeaKeepers by Google searching ‘ocean conservation’ and most organizations I found only ask for money but SeaKeepers was the only organization I found that you can actually participate and do something meaningful – so now I get the best of both worlds, I can use my boat which I love, while also getting the chance to use it for a good cause and help others that are more schooled in ocean conservation to make my coast a better place.”
DISCOVERY Yacht Cabrillo assisted the Blue Latitudes Foundation team with deployment of a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to do a science assessment off the Huntington Beach harbor. The purpose of this outing was to determine how well ecosystems can thrive in artificial reef environments. This expedition served as an example of the type of research that can be accomplished when vessel costs are eliminated and scientists are able to allocate those funds to other aspects of the research budget, while also providing a fulfilling experience for the vessel owner.
Donate your vessel for a cause
Like many other non-profit organizations, SeaKeepers heavily relies on donations to operate and facilitate these expeditions. Since 1998, the charity has accepted boat donations that go towards scientific research, education and ocean conservation through the Yacht Donation Program.
SeaKeepers facilitates the yacht donation process from working out the paperwork to picking up the vessel. The team accepts full responsibility for the vessel “as is, where is.” Donating your vessel can immediately eliminate your ownership cost, considerably reduce your income tax burden and support a great cause for the oceans you love.
“The yacht donation program at SeaKeepers is a vital component in our mission to protect and restore the world’s oceans,” says SeaKeepers Chairman, Jay Wade. “Donations directly fund our scientific and educational programming for ocean conservation therefore letting us provide more Scientist-led Expeditions, Citizen Science and Instrument Deployments, Educational Outreach, and Community Engagement. In addition, yacht donations provide donors and yacht brokers with a great alternative to the time and expense involved in selling a vessel. Donors benefit by reducing their carrying costs and obtain a reasonable tax donation from a safe, reputable charity. Yacht brokers benefit from the ability to help their customers exit yacht ownership quickly and cost-effectively as well as having access to competitively priced inventory for sale and charter. All of these features combine to create a win-win-win situation for SeaKeepers, donors and brokers.”
Make an impact from anywhere in the world
Despite the charity’s involvement with the boating community – there are other ways to get involved and support ocean conservation without owning a vessel. Advocating for the protection of our planet and raising awareness amongst your community, can be done from anywhere in the world. SeaKeepers has a strong group of ocean advocates that show their support through joining the Membership Program, and volunteering at beach cleanups. The Membership Program has different levels of giving and comes with benefits that range from single-use alternative kits to official SeaKeepers gear, to attendance at signature events.
Beach Cleanups attract volunteers of all ages. Each cleanup has an educational element to it, with examples of microplastics, not so “fun facts” on the problems plaguing our seas, and the tallying of marine debris collected at the end of each event. The data collected is inputted into an application called ‘Clean Swell’ through your phone. “CleanSwell is a trash tracking app we use at cleanups to take an inventory of the variety of trash we collect, and get citizens involved in science,” says Programming Intern, Sarah Van Roekel. “The data is shared through Ocean Conservancy’s database to help scientists identify global trends in what types of trash are ending up where.” This activity allows volunteers to support our citizen science efforts and helps the community understand the implications of trash on our shorelines.
Protecting our resources has never been more critical in preserving our future. To learn more about how you can join SeaKeepers, please visit: www.seakeepers.org. ☐