Last year was big … this year looks bigger!
Now that we are over the festive feasting and even the parties of San Sebastian are merely a memory, at Asociación Ondine we are well and truly stuck into the snowballing work load we created for ourselves last year!
Let me say straight away, that none of this would have happened without all the great support we’ve had from the yachting industry, local residents and businesses. However, since we restructured AO last spring our organisation has grown exponentially, and in many different directions.
Since our wonderfully creative volunteers organised the massively successful Sea Soiree Masquerade Ball in May 2017 we have been undertaking a non-stop list of projects. At times it seems that the more we do, the more there is to do, but we love it that so many more people are getting involved in every aspect of marine conservation throughout the Balearics.
Last year we conducted 15 beach cleans around the island which removed over two tons of rubbish. Our underwater clean-ups rid the sea bed of 600m of discarded industrial fishing nets. These two activities were achieved with the help of over 820 volunteers. Thank you guys! You know who you are, so give yourselves a well-earned hug.
While the beach cleans enabled everyone from babes in arms to octogenarians to work together, the work beneath the waves led to four local dive schools – who would normally be in competition – partnering together to undertake the mammoth task of net removal off the protected coast of Sa Dragonera.
AO’s internal changes resulted in huge development in the Dos Manos, Schools and Partners programmes.
The AO Schools Programme is an educational course on marine conservation offered free of charge to local schools and colleges in either Spanish or English. In 2017 we conducted the Programmes with over 350 students around the island. In the Autumn we joined with Alnitak to develop the Changemakers competition, which is currently open to all students aged fifteen to eighteen. Entrants develop ideas to help reduce plastic pollution and the winning teams will enjoy a week’s trip aboard RV Toftevaag during the summer of 2018. Once aboard these young innovators will work alongside marine scientists observing whales and turtles.
We began training two other educational partners in the Schools Programme during 2017 and gave them all the accompanying teaching materials. Ibiza Limpia and Mission Océan will both be helping us to spread the Dos Manos Schools Programme to different parts of the globe throughout the year, and we have been invited to the 6th international Marine Debris Conference this year in San Diego, in order to present the Dos Manos School Programme to a global audience.
Asociación Ondine’s Partners Programme was developed and is now in the active pilot phase with seven businesses already working together to reduce single use plastic consumption within their companies. Bonnie Lass Charters, Palma College, MY ROMA, Cap Rocat, Vegan Day Out, LifeXperiences and The Boat House are all working on their plastic audits and aim to reduce their single-use-plastic consumption over the coming year.
On the same theme, we raised awareness and helped reduce plastic pollution at 15 different events around the island last year, including the annual walk “Walking works Wonders” organised by Rotary International Calvià, Vins amb Art and Salut y Ecologia.
Last summer we hosted an international conservation expedition around the island with the help of Bonnie Lass Charters and in the company of scientists from Mission Blue, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Plastic Pollution Coalition and Drifters Project. We surveyed future possible Marine Protection Areas throughout the year, only ceasing at the end of November when the water became too rough and cold to continue.
Scientific research and data collection will continue as soon as wind and wave allows in order to map optimal future MPAs around the Balearics. An effective network of MPA’s is crucial for the protection of local marine ecosystems, endangered species and vulnerable fish stocks, and will not only benefit artesanal fisheries, the yachting community and tourism related businesses, but all of us, as we all depend on a clean and healthy Balearic sea. We are committed to continuing our scientific surveys and helping to create new MPAs until our seas teem with life once again.
To see a selection of videos about our work last year, go to https://vimeo.com/user15629766. Big love and thanks to everyone who helped AO to grow and develop last year and we hope to see a whole load more of you this year!
By Brad Robertson, President of Asociación Ondine
Photos: Net retrieval around Sa Dragonera brought together four local dive schools. Photo by James Cooke; Bonnie Lass Charters is taking huge strides in cutting out plastic aboard and within their supply chain; The Changemakers competition gives young people the opportunity to work alongside local marine scientists aboard RV Toftevaag.