BOAT International Media and partners today announce the digital launch of the innovative ‘Yachts for Science’ project, following a successful pilot mission which explored the black corals in the Raja Ampat region of Indonesia in January 2020. Coinciding with World Oceans Day, Yachts for Science, which is backed by BOAT International Media, Nekton, the Arksen Foundation and the Ocean Family Foundation, debuts a digital platform to help marine scientists reach new depths of the ocean, connecting scientists with yachts to conduct research and conservation projects.
Despite centuries of venturing to sea, the human race has only discovered an estimated 9% of the species living within the ocean and mapped a fraction of the ocean floor. The lack of access to the sea is a fundamental problem for marine scientists and conservation experts when understanding the ocean ecosystem.
To advance global knowledge of the state of the ocean, Yachts for Science will unveil a new dedicated website in June 2020 to match yachts with marine research projects to enable critical research and conservation work to progress. The aim is to continue producing findings that will inform decision and policy makers across the world while expanding the knowledge of the ocean.
Sacha Bonsor, Editorial Director at Boat International Media said: “The oceans are critical to the health of the planet and yachts are uniquely placed to help save them by offering access to often inaccessible areas. The ‘Yachts for Science’ initiative will be a leader in pioneering the exploration and understanding of the oceans.”
The first successful Yachts for Science pairing took place in January 2020 to study the black corals in the Raja Ampat region of Indonesia for two weeks onboard luxury charter yacht Dunia Baru. It was led by Dr Erika Gress and her team of four marine biologists from the University of Papua (UNIPA), Manokwari and the NGO Bionesia. The aim was to gain insights into the abundance and diversity of black corals and their role as fundamental habitat providers in Raja Ampat reefs. This study will ultimately provide information on the black coral ecology and the reefs they thrive in.
The main exploration took place in an area known as the Coral Triangle, which is renowned for the density of its marine organisms and boasts the largest diversity of corals on the planet. The topography is stunning both above and below water, changing dramatically from east to west with the north-west dominated by low lying sand atolls and the south-east by cast rock structures with large vertical walls. An abundance of colonies seem to favour the south-eastern region, where reefs were in generally in better condition than on the west side of Misool, outside the protected area. It also appears to support a high diversity of black corals, possibly including undescribed species. “We were only able to do one night dive,” recalls scientist Erika Gress, “but it was one of the best of the whole trip. Many of the marine organisms and invertebrates like shrimps and crabs that use black coral as habitat are more active at night and it was easier see them.”
Future planned expeditions include a study of deep scattering layers led by Professor Andrew Brierley of the University of St Andrews. “Deep scattering layers are almost like an outer space environment,” says Professor Andrew Brierley. “Extraordinary animals hang there in the twilight or total darkness. Lanternfish, for example, with their flashing photophores, wonderful crustaceans and giant shrimp. It will give us a completely new window into an aspect of the world’s ocean that we don’t yet have.”
There is a range of new scientific projects looking for yacht partnerships, including the search for giant manta rays or coral reef ecology post-hurricanes in the Caribbean. You can view some of the live briefs below:
- Explore the remote areas of the vast Maldives archipelago to discover and document new sub- populations of manta rays using SCUBA/free-diving surveys, tissue samples, satellite tags and photo identification techniques. Accurate estimates of their population size, structure, habitat use and connectivity is essential to ensure effective protection of these vulnerable species.
- The “Voyage of Discovery” program. This program, using vessels of opportunity will provide new information on the oceanography, marine biology, and seabed of the Sanctuary, enabling better (and data-based) management.
- Using the Great Barrier Reef as a natural laboratory, the research proposed here aims to better understand the structure, function and recovery of coral reefs in the aftermath of mass coral bleaching.
More detail on the program can be viewed here.
A full selection of the projects can be viewed here.