Filter your search
Search for yachts, articles, offices,
team and more...

Tackling oceans of plastic pollution
6th June 2023
A geographic victim of waste carried by ocean currents, there’s no sight like the atoll of Aldabra in the Seychelles to awaken one to the horrors of plastic pollution. Yet while the situation is dire, there is cause for hope. Camper & Nicholsons reveals the most promising initiatives currently combatting the crisis that is plaguing the world’s oceans, and how its clients can take action.

CONTACT OUR TEAM Facebook Linkedin Twitter Email Whatsapp

Tackling oceans of plastic pollution

The last Aldabra Island Regatta in the Seychelles was a race like no other. Four boats built entirely of trash sailed a 1.5km course off the remote Indian Ocean atoll. The regatta drew attention to the gross amounts of ocean flotsam that threaten our seas. Equally importantly, the event highlighted new research on how to remove them. 

The research was carried out by a joint team of Seychellois volunteers and University of Oxford academics. What they discovered on Aldabra was shocking. Mountains of plastic flotsam rose like dunes of 21st-century consumption. Green turtles that swam ashore to nest returned to sea as they had no place to spawn. The ingestion of plastic was commonplace. The reef was particularly unhealthy, as the incidence of coral disease increases when polyps are in contact with plastic. To solve Aldabra’s problem with science, the team would have to dig deep. 

For five sweltering weeks, the team picked and sorted 25 tonnes of beached plastics. The overwhelming amount of trash, which was later used to build the Aldabra Island Regatta boats, derived primarily from discarded fishing gear. Most numerous were fish aggregating devices (FADs). These floating objects, with plastic nets and electronic transponders attached, act like a magnet to big pelagic species such as marlin and tuna. Pacific islanders have used bamboo rafts for the same purpose for millennia. Yet today’s plastic FADs are often jettisoned to save weight on a return fishing trip, or lost as they float into a marine protected area where fishing boats are forbidden to follow. 

The Seychelles may be part of the solution. As the country’s economy is dependent on fishing, the Aldabra research and its headlining regatta prompted calls for a limitation of FADs in the Seychelles and a requirement that they be made from biodegradable material. The island has become a model for other polluted zones. The high ratio of discarded fishing products is similar to that found in other areas including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (52% of total plastics) and Australia’s northern shores (63%). 

The problem of the remaining plastics on Aldabra requires a more global solution. The trash sorted by the team included 60,000 individual flip-flops. That’s simply too many shoes to originate from the Seychelles, which has a population of just 99,000. The nearly 500 plastic bottles found on Aldabra were easier to source. Nearly 50 legible bottle labels pointed to plastics from China, Indonesia and Thailand. In other words, a worldwide issue that requires international collaboration. 

Why do the plastics end up in Aldabra and other isolated islands? The rest of the Seychelles is resoundingly pristine. Camper & Nicholsons charter itineraries showcase coco de mer shells and pink sands on Praslin, while the Desroches archipelago boasts 72 pristine coral cays. Yet other islands “lie in the path of ocean currents and so receive enormous amounts of plastic waste,” explains Professor Lindsay Turnbull from the University of Oxford. “Research conducted at the University of Oxford has revealed that an East-West current sweeps plastic from Indonesia and other parts of Asia directly to Aldabra.” A tragedy for the island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a population of 12 humans and 150,000 tortoises. 

Ocean currents might also hold the key to a potential solution to seaborne plastics. One of the latest sea trash solutions is 56.5m Manta, a five-deck multihull powered by solar panels and DynaRig masts, that looks like the world's most futuristic explorer yacht. She is scheduled to launch in 2025. Then, Manta will be able to suck up 10,000 tonnes of marine plastics per year using floating collection systems, conveyors, mini-crafts and two lateral cranes for pulling up the largest pieces of debris. Up to 95% of trash will be processed at sea, with some used in a waste-to-energy conversion unit to further power the vessel. 

Valérie Amant from The Sea Cleaners, the environmental organisation behind Manta, says the boat’s secondary aim is educational. The striking vessel can help raise awareness that 40% of plastics are discarded within a month of usage. Or that plastics account for 85% of ocean litter. And that by 2040, plastic waste might present an annual financial risk of $670bn to businesses and governments who will have to bear the costs of managing it at the projected volumes. 

What can yacht owners do to help? “Spread the word,” says Amant. “Yacht owners are ocean lovers. The first thing to do is to be exemplary in the management of waste when on board.” Donations are also needed: in 2022, Manta received build approval from French inspection agency Bureau Veritas. “What we need now is a shipyard and more financial support,” adds Amant.


Another oceanic concept seeks to cull plastic pollution. Rivers in the newly developed world are a primary source of ocean pollution. Since 2020, The Ocean Cleanup has pioneered the use of Interceptors to lasso the world’s trash before it enters the ocean. These vast booms, connected to a solar-powered scooper, can net rubbish from a river mouth or be looped out at sea from a tender. One of the newest Interceptor Barriers guards the bay at Kingston Harbour in Jamaica. Another Interceptor boat, funded by the rock band Coldplay, guards the Klang River near the burgeoning Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Again, more funding means more can be done.

A third ocean environment project hopes to tackle the issue of ocean trash before it even occurs. The Plastic Pollution Coalition, an alliance of business leaders and marine experts, is pushing its Last Plastic Straw movement to refuse single use plastics in the first place. The program manager is Jackie Nuñez. She recalls being served a glass of water “with a plastic straw that I didn’t ask for and didn’t need” in 2011, which she knew would outlive her and generations to come. 

“I had seen so many plastic straws during beach clean-ups,” says Nuñez, “I felt that the plastic straw would be a gateway to help people realise we can’t just keep cleaning up plastic pollution — we need to stop it at the source.” Yachts can be part of the solution, claims Nuñez. “If you are an owner or guest, chances are you may have some influence in your circles. Commit to a plastic-free yacht experience and provide your family and guests with reusables on board.” 

Camper & Nicholsons partner, and Plastic Pollution Coalition founding advisor, Dr Sylvia Earle used her influence wisely. The oceanographer helped the Seychelles government declare two new Marine Protected Areas — covering an area the size of Britain — around the Outer Islands of Seychelles, which includes Aldabra. In 2022, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco sailed to Aldabra to raise awareness of coral degradation. The conclusion of these varied voices is salient. Firstly, for stakeholders to muster their resources to solve an escalating crisis. Secondly, for the world to use less plastics, full stop.