Mariasole Bianco is a marine conservationist, an active member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, and an ambassador for North Sails. She is the co-founder and president of Worldrise, an Italian non-profit organisation focused on marine conservation and young professional empowerment.
When she is not busy empowering others, you can find her sailing blissfully on the ocean. This is her way to unwind and (re-)connect with the marine life, ocean, and nature.
On a recent trip to Nyon, an area in Switzerland where a number of international organisations are based, Mariasole shared some of her thoughts on the current challenges that our ocean is facing today and what it means to be a responsible sailor.
1. What are some of the major problems that our ocean is facing today?
We can think about this blue layer as one big ocean, everything is connected, and we should treat it as one. There are many different problems that the ocean is facing today. Among the most alarming there are those linked to climate change. These are ocean warming, ocean acidification and ocean deoxidation.
In addition to those there are various other problems like plastic and oil pollution, and illegal fishing. People need to know that the natural environment is what supports us on this planet.
2. How can sailors make a positive impact on the ocean?
Sailors should be applying basic principles when out at sea. They need to make sure that there is no waste that goes overboard, use glass instead of plastic, use environmentally friendly cleaning products, sunscreen, and soaps.
3. There have been some recent developments regarding fully electric and hybrid boats, in the yachting industry. Have you seen or do you predict to see positive changes from these eco-friendly designs?
Noise pollution is extremely disruptive to marine life. As for humans, communication is of paramount importance for the wellbeing and the survival of many marine species. Electric boats will contribute to reduce noise pollution and eliminate the emission of pollutants produced by the fossil fuel combustion. More specifically, electric boats can have a tremendous impact if their batteries will be charged using renewable energy sources. However, it is important to invest in batteries with a long-life cycle and to dispose them of correctly.
4. Nowadays, you can buy ecological anchors, how can these be beneficial to the ocean floor and its surroundings?
Seagrass is one of the largest and, therefore, most important suppliers of oxygen not only for the ocean but for our entire planet. More likely than not we are breathing oxygen produced in the depths of the ocean even here in Switzerland. Anchoring on seagrass can drastically damaging such an important source of oxygen but it also means destroying an ecosystem that houses thousands of different species which find shelter and food there. Thus, destroying seagrass meadows due to irresponsible anchoring or grounding has a dramatic domino effect that will, in the end, impact us all.
This issue has unfortunately become more relevant today as more medium- and large-sized cruise ships enter shallow, sensitive waters. By doing so they often inflict severe scathe to the ocean floor with their giant anchors and anchor chains. What is most frightening is that an anchor-damaged reef or seagrass meadow may never recover, and even if it does, it may take about 50 years.
5. How can the creation of artificial reefs help the marine ecosystem?
It is a delicate task because one always risks to change the complicate equilibriums that nature is made of. For example, the creation of an artificial reef could impact locally the currents thus causing the erosion of certain areas along the shore. Personally, I think the best way of incorporating artificial reefs is by planting them in places where reefs are dying or has been strongly damaged to help them re-flourish.
6. How do we best inform ourselves on the impact we have on our ocean?
You can estimate your impact by simply visiting the website: footprintcalculator.com
You will get a better understanding of your overall impact and on how you can act in order to maximise your positive effect on the environment. I think the most important message is that we can all contribute to make the difference for a healthier ocean which is one of our life-supporting systems. Every single drop counts! Of course, on a larger scale I am deeply convinced that marine protected areas represent the best option we have to preserve the marine environment.
Through her story and passion for the marine environment, Mariasole will continue to inspire and educate people. It was a pleasure meeting her and tapping into the world of knowledge that she has to share.
We are excited to see the incredible work that Worldrise continues to do!
If you would like to join Worldrise in saving and preserving the marine life, visit its website www.worldrise.org for more information and to make a donation to this inspiring initiative.
Words by Bianca van Rensburg
Photography by Sébastien Rohner