Header image by Steve Trewavas. The port propeller of the Rio de Janeiro Maru clearly showing the huge scale of the shipwreck.
Maritime archeologist Matt Carter discusses what brought him to Chuuk Lagoon and his quest to call attention to the oil leaking from WWII shipwrecks, the focus of the Major Projects Foundation (MPF), where he serves as Research Director. The foundation was created with the goal of working with Pacific nations to protect their marine ecosystems from oil spills from WWII shipwrecks.
What many people know is that between 1939 and 1945, the Japanese military and the Allied powers fought an increasingly bloody war through South-East Asia and out across the Pacific Ocean. What fewer people know is that this maritime war saw the loss of some 3800 ships which sank, taking with them their crew, cargoes, and in some cases huge volumes of toxic heavy fuel oil.
One of the questions that Carter is asked frequently is how much oil could these ships possibly still be holding today? In 2005, a team of international experts came together to answer just that question. Searching through archives for information on these potentially polluting shipwrecks (PPW), they calculated that combined, all of the ships lost in the Asia-Pacific Region could possibly still hold anywhere between 150 million and 1.2 billion gallons of oil!
MPF was established in 2018. After signing a memorandum of understanding with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the foundation began reviewing and prioritizing the 3800 WWII shipwrecks sunk in the Asia-Pacific Region, resulting in a priority list of 55 PPW deemed to be the highest environmental risk. Seventeen of these wrecks are located in the world-famous diving Mecca of Chuuk Lagoon in the Federated States of Micronesia.
One of the key tools that the foundation used for investigating the condition of the PPW in Chuuk was photogrammetry, a process where a wreck is scanned by divers taking thousands of overlapping photos which are then run through a 3D software program. The main focus of this photogrammetry work was the wreck of the Rio de Janiero Maru, as oil leaks from the wreck were thought to have impacted nearby mangroves in 2008. Over multiple dives, the foundation surveyed and scanned the shipwreck taking 7350 photos and three hours of video. This was the first time that any of the wrecks in Chuuk Lagoon had been recorded in this way resulting in the 3D model shown below.
From this survey, Carter was able to create a baseline condition assessment of the Rio de Janeiro Maru including a hull integrity assessment that has allowed for a more accurate estimation of the amount of oil that may remain inside the wreck. This information was subsequently incorporated into a ‘Likelihood of Oil Release’ assessment providing MPF and the Chuukese authorities with a greater understanding of the potential threat that this wreck poses.
The survey of the Rio de Janeiro Maru has shown what can be achieved through the combination of marine archaeology, technical diving, and photogrammetry. However, this is only the first of the 55 potentially polluting wrecks throughout the Pacific that MPF and its partners urgently need to assess in order to mitigate the impact that these ticking ecological time bombs will have on the people and marine ecosystems of the region.
Anniversary Event of the Healthy Seas Foundation Celebrates a Decade of Marine Protection and Industry-Wide Partnerships
September 20, 2023
Croatia and Slovenia — The Healthy Seas Foundation, a pioneering organization dedicated to marine conservation and education, commemorated its 10-year anniversary with a remarkable three-day event held from September 4th to 6th, 2023. The event brought together a diverse array of partners, collaborators, journalists, and environmental enthusiasts who have collectively contributed to the foundation’s journey towards cleaner seas.
A Decade of Transformation
The anniversary event was a testament to the remarkable achievements of the Healthy Seas Foundation over the past decade. Participants gathered from across the globe to reflect on the foundation’s impactful initiatives, discuss future strategies, and reinforce current partnerships. The event underscored the deep interlinkage between marine conservation and diverse industries, illustrating the power of collaboration in fostering positive change.
Empowering Presentations and Collaborative Networking
Day 1 featured insightful presentations that delved into the history and future aspirations of the Healthy Seas Foundation. Attendees engaged in discussions that underscored the importance of sustainable practices promoting circularity across various industries. The day concluded with a celebratory dinner, providing a platform for networking and idea exchange among partners and collaborators.
Nurturing Tomorrow’s Advocates
Day 2 saw the foundation’s commitment to education and community engagement in action. Collaborating with local school children, the event fostered environmental awareness through interactive activities. An inspiring photo exhibition and a captivating virtual reality experience transported participants into the heart of marine ecosystems, emphasizing the significance of cleaning and safeguarding these vital ecosystems for future generations.
The day also featured a presentation and joint artwork session with Bracenet, a valued partner of the Healthy Seas Foundation. Bracenet showcased the diverse applications of the nets recovered by Healthy Seas, highlighting their transformation from abandoned ghost nets to purposeful creations.
The afternoon of Day 2 witnessed a ghost net retrieval mission led by Ghost Divers from around the world. These volunteer divers demonstrated their dedication to ocean cleanup by removing abandoned fishing nets, a significant threat to marine life, from the seas.
Embracing Circularity: Aquafil’s Sustainable Innovation
Day 3 showcased the Healthy Seas Foundation’s vital partnership with Aquafil. Participants witnessed the collaborative efforts to give discarded nets and nylon waste new life, an embodiment of environmental stewardship and innovation. Through this partnership, some of the fishing nets recovered by Healthy Seas are mixed together with other nylon waste and transformed into ECONYL® regenerated nylon, advancing circular economy across industries.
Celebrating a Decade of Growth
Over the last 10 years, the Healthy Seas Foundation has experienced substantial growth, expanding from 3 partners in 2013 to a network of 150 partners today. The initiative has progressed from 20 activities to an impressive 228, with volunteers increasing from 15 to a formidable force of 350. What initially began in 3 countries has now extended its impactful operations to 20 countries.
As the Healthy Seas Foundation envisions the future, the anniversary event serves as a reminder of the remarkable progress of the past decade and the potential for even greater impact in the years to come.
For media inquiries, interviews, or additional information, please contact:
Samara Croci, Communications Manager, Healthy Seas Foundation
email@example.com +39 3314436962
About Healthy Seas Foundation:
Healthy Seas is an international non-profit organisation whose mission is to remove waste from the seas, in particular fishing nets, for the purpose of creating healthier seas and recycling marine litter into textile products. The recovered fishing nets will be transformed and regenerated by Aquafil, together with other nylon waste, into ECONYL® yarn, a high-quality raw material used to create new products, such as socks, swimwear, sportswear, or carpets. Since its founding in 2013, Healthy Seas has collected over 905 tons of fishing nets and other marine litter with the help of volunteer divers and fishers.