Ashoka Netherlands is delighted to announce the election of their latest Fellow Wietse van der Werf. Wietse is the founder and CEO of the Sea Ranger Service, which has been established to revolutionize ocean conservation. The organisational model combines the empowerment of unemployed youths and re-integration of navy veterans to provide a concrete solution to severe global human capacity shortages in the monitoring of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
The World’s oceans provide around 50% of the air we breathe, absorb roughly a quarter of our CO2 emissions, and roughly 3 billion people depend on fish as a major source of animal protein.
Yet, chronic challenges such as illegal fishing (estimated to be a $10-24 billion industry), plastics pollution and climate change decimate the food supply of communities, endanger marine ecosystems, risk regional instability, and threaten our very existence as humans.
While there is near universal agreement that our oceans are at risk, there is currently not enough human capacity directed at addressing the practical implementation of legislation. Meanwhile, in many port areas, the reality, caused by evolving social labour and vocation demands is often that there are problems with a lack of skilled young marine professionals and, at the same time, the reintegration of navy veterans.
The Sea Ranger Service, currently being piloted in Rotterdam, is Wietse’s response to these problems and combines the global issues of high unemployment in port cities and coastal regions, with the lack of management capacity at sea. By training youths as Sea Rangers to actively manage MPAs, the initiative transforms these problems into each other’s solutions.
The Sea Ranger Service transforms the way in which governments can manage their oceans by tapping into under-utilized human capacity and is the World’s first global maritime ranger service.
Wietse has devised his vision and idea based on learnings from his other successful organisations, including The Black Fish, a citizen-led fisheries inspection network, and the Wildlife Air Service, which is a civilian air service focused on repurposing civilian pilots’ flights for conservation purposes. As part of these organisations he has run investigations, campaigns, operations and events across 12 countries in Europe, Africa and North America, over the last eight years. At the end of last year he delivered a key-note speech at the European Commission’s Our Ocean conference and consequently held discussions with 10 countries interested in introducing the Ranger Service to their seas. On the announcement Wietse commented:
“I am feeling very humbled to have been selected as an Ashoka fellow. Running an initiative that creatively combines different sectors and issues to create impact, I finally feel understood. Amazing to now get a chance to work with Ashoka and draw on the inspiration and expertise of such a prominent network of like-minded people."