The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has launched a boat which will raise awareness of marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean region.
The Blue Panda boat, a 26 metre mono-hull yacht built in 1987, set sail Toulon in France last week for a voyage lasting six months. It will visit ports, marinas and harbours in France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey; with the overarching mission of promoting awareness of the diversity of marine wildlife in the Mediterranean and encouraging local residents and communities to take action to protect it. The Blue Panda’s crew of experienced sailors and researchers will conduct research on the behaviour of cetaceans – whales, porpoises and dolphins – in the Mediterranean region, as well as drawing attention to prevailing issues threatening the marine environment such as plastic waste pollution and overfishing.
The Mediterranean Sea is one of the regions defined by the WWF as a conservation priority area. The WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative (MMI) aims to shore up conservation efforts in the region through building partnerships with local bodies and developing new solutions to the problems posed by climate change, marine pollution and deteriorating ecosystems. Through the initiative, the WWF works with NGOs, scientists, policymakers, fisheries and managers of Marine Protected Areas; with the goal of achieving ‘Good Environmental Status’ for the region by 2030.
Giuseppe Di Carlo, Director of the Mediterranean Marine Initiative, said: “WWF’s Blue Panda will be a laboratory of knowledge, innovation and mobilisation for the whole Mediterranean Sea – we have a unique heritage in our hands and we are rapidly destroying it with irresponsible plastic waste, oil and gas exploration; and overfishing.”
The Blue Panda boat will spend the rest of June around the Pelagos Sanctuary, conducting research into cetacean behaviour and developing proposals for ways to mitigate the dual risks of plastic pollution and shipping hazards. It will then spend July to November touring major tourist areas throughout the Mediterranean, building relationships and engaging with the public in order to raise awareness and mobilise opposition to the threat of plastic marine pollution.