Keeping an eye on our oceans

Graeme Somerville-Ryan, Co Founder of EYESEA outlines their mission to collect photographic GPS tagged data on ocean pollution and share this information to aid ocean cleanups

If you spend any time at sea or along the coast you will understand the pressure the ocean and coastal environments are under from pollution. It is everywhere and it is a problem that is not getting any smaller. When I started looking for pollution, it made me slightly panicky. I didn’t enjoy SUPing (badly) amongst plastic wrappers.

It is to our detriment that we don’t ‘see’ it or we have become so desensitised to it that we are no longer shocked into taking action to stop it.

Last week we formally launched Eyesea, a nonprofit organisation with a mission to map maritime pollution. We believe, we hope, that by mapping pollution we will be in a position to accurately and quantifiably show its impact; and then we will be in a better position to organise clean-up actions and change behavior. The key to all this is you…people with access to the ocean and an affinity for its health.

The idea
Eyesea is developing the concept of using geotagged pictures to chart reports of pollution. In a nutshell, we are building an App that takes and uploads a picture with embedded GPS coordinates onto a map that can be incorporated into ENCs. There is, of course, a story that sits in behind how this was all pulled together, but those details are for another day.

The response to the idea from the commercial side of the industry was fantastic. ChartWorld (which specialises in digital navigation and voyage planning) offered to fully fund the technological development of the reporting tool.
On the yachting side, Fraser and Raphael Sauleau came onboard at an early stage, when Eyesea was literally an idea on two pieces of paper. We now have 60 volunteer vessels ready to test the app at sea.

This week we undertook our first successful sea trials. Quite a big moment for all of us involved, including the seafarers who took the pictures.

We need you
We did wonder, at the beginning of this journey, if seafarers, mariners, and sailors would be willing to help and a lot of our attention was focussed on possible rewards and marketing. Then on one of our early tests, the Master of a commercial ship wrote to us that he was angry about what he was seeing at sea. He said that the simple act of taking a picture to show what was going on made him feel like he was making a contribution to protecting the sea. The report that he sent us included a picture of a lost fishing net – a ghost net – in the North Sea. It was hard to get a better ‘proof of concept’ moment.

“I want to do something, I want to help” is a message we have heard over and over again from across the sailing and shipping sectors. Eyesea is non-profit organisation and has been set-up as a New Zealand-based Incorporated Society (basically a membership), similar to a small local sports club. Our goal is for people in our industry to own this idea and to drive it forward as best they can. Because this is a big job that needs everyone involved.

Eyesea gives anyone with access to the ocean the ability to take on a different role, one of being a protector of the environment, the ‘eyes of the ocean’. As the global community moves to further reduce CO2 emissions – a move which should be applauded – we are still faced with a very tangible problem. Regulation can only get us so far, and regulation, and regulators, don’t actually remove pollution from the ocean. People like you do.

For more details contact [email protected]
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