June 7, 2020

World Oceans Day Update: Superyacht Builder Donates Over $2 Million To Help Protect Ascension Islands From Overfishing

News Source: Forbes

Author(s): Bill Springer

Peter Lürssen’s family-owned shipyard doesn’t just build superyachts. The Lürssen shipyard in Germany builds the largest and most recognizable superyachts in the world including: the largest superyacht by length (the 590-foot-long Azzam), and the largest superyacht by interior volume (the 511-foot Dilbar).

But as I’ve learned during my involvement with the Blue Marine Foundation’s work to create marine sanctuaries all over the world, (and Blue’s annual London To Monaco bike ride fund raiser), company CEO Peter Lürssen is committed to helping protecting ocean as much as he is to building the largest private yachts in the world. And as I learned in during an interview with him in Fort Lauderdale, he’s puts his money where his heart is.

At first, Lürssen spoke like a veteran CEO when I asked him about his desire to help protect the world’s oceans. “The obvious choice is that if the oceans are dead, why would owners want a yacht if it's not nice to be at sea?” he said with a knowing smile. And of course, he has a point.

But then his eyes softened, and he got a bit more philosophical. “Years ago, like a typical parent, I used to joke with my kids and say ‘Look, you have a great life. Everything is easy these days for you.’”

“But then they said… ‘You’re wrong. The world is actually quite an unstable. [It was then. And now that the world is in the midst of global pandemic it’s much worse.]  “And then they started talking about the current state of the environment. They’re part of  the generation that are much more conscientious about the environment than when we were.

“I thought about what they said, and I realized ‘They were right,’” he continues. “The oceans need to be preserved and protected. And then thought some more and realized we, the older generation, have lived very nicely off the planet, and it's time to give back.”

So, when he was looking for a way to make a positive impact on the health of the oceans several years ago, the Blue Marine Foundation’s efforts enlist members of the superyacht community to help the environment turned out to be a perfect fit.

“Since 90% of the all the life in the ocean is within a 200-mile range around land—especially islands—I realized how important it is to have marine protected areas. I knew the Blue Marine Foundation had been working to set up marine protected areas around the world, so I met with them in London to see how I could help.”

Once he was convinced Blue was on the right track, he got right to the point. “I met with the founders of Blue over dinner. We were talking. At the end of the meal I asked, ‘How much is your yearly operating budget?’ They told me. So, I said ‘OK. I’ll pay your operating budget for the next five years. Don't talk about it. And let’s go get the real rich guys and get them to come with big money.’”

Since then, Lürssen has donated more than just Blue’s 5-year operating budget, but he’s never wanted to draw too much attention to his donations. But his desire to make lasting impact came into laser focus around Blue’s attempt to protect 170,000 square miles of ocean Ascension Island in the South Atlantic.

Ascension’s waters teem with all forms of marine life, including sharks, some of the biggest marlin in the world and the Atlantic’s largest population of green turtles. Ascension has been called the last true wild place in the ocean that until recently, has been decimated by overfishing.

“Three years ago, we were talking with owners and members of the yacht industry about protecting the waters around Ascension Islands at the Monaco Yacht Show,” he says. The goal was to raise over $2 million to establish a trust so Blue could help the islanders find an alternative income to selling the rights to fish around Ascension to factory fishing ships from China and other countries.

But they hadn’t raised the needed funds until Lürssen—who’s goal has always been to set an example of giving for the superyacht community—put his money where his mouth is and personally donated over $2 million. The money is being used to set to set up an endowment fund that will support the island’s isolated community (so they don’t have to sell fishing licences) and so they can create a massive marine reserve in 100% of Ascension’s waters.

And he would have kept this donation a secret too. But he recently made the decision to go public so that his actions might inspire others to make a commitment (no matter how large!) to helping save our oceans for generations to come.

Because as we know now more than ever, we’re all in this together. And there’s no better way to celebrate World Oceans Day than with environmental success story like this one.

Stay tuned for much more.