Schurmann family sets sail on new expedition to raise awareness on marine pollution

  • The Shurmann family's expedition, Voice of the Oceans, departed from Balneário Camboriú, Brazil, on 29 August.
  • The expedition, supported by UNEP, will focus on documenting and finding solutions to the invasion of plastics chocking marine ecosystems.
  • The family will sail through the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Southern Pacific Ocean.

Brasília, 29 August 2021- Brazil's seafaring Schurmann family, the first Latin American family to circumnavigate the world in a sailboat, set sail today on a two-year journey that will witness, document, and foster solutions to marine litter in international waters.

The initiative, dubbed the Voice of the Oceans and supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as part of the Clean Seas Campaign, will raise awareness on plastic and micro-plastic pollution, also searching for innovative solutions and engaging governments and the public at every stop, from southern Brazil to New York, the Caribbean and New Zealand.

"We are very excited. After postponing our plans due to the pandemic, the expedition will finally reach the world. We believe in the power of people to come together, find solutions and create deep and meaningful impact," said David Schurmann, CEO of the Voice of the Oceans.

"This expedition is a unique opportunity to generate greater awareness on the state of plastics and micro-plastics that are choking our water bodies from source to sea, and to engage governments and citizens towards solutions," said Leticia Carvalho, Head of UNEP's Marine and Freshwater Branch. "Discussions and actions to tackle marine litter are gaining momentum nationally and globally; crucially, governments will come together to decide on how to work collectively to turn the tide at the UN Environment Assembly in 2022. The Schurmann's voyage will capture the public's attention and inspire much needed action, both along the expedition's route and beyond."

There are an estimated 51 trillion microplastic particles in our seas worldwide. Every year, at least 11 million tons of plastic enter our seas -- the equivalent of one garbage truck being dumped every minute. Latin America and the Caribbean alone, where part of the Expedition will sail, produces 17,000 tonnes per day of plastic waste and less than 10% of waste is recycled in the region as an average.

The Voice of the Oceans, aboard the sailboat Kat, will navigate the Brazilian coastline until December, when it will head to the Caribbean Islands, the Atlantic coast of the United States and the Bermuda archipelago.

In April, it will return to the Caribbean to cross the Panama Canal, heading to the Galapagos Islands, after which the Schurmanns will sail on to the South Pacific Ocean, to Polynesia, ending the journey in New Zealand. The route also includes stopovers at the famous "gyres" of the Pacific, where plastic waste is brought together by ocean currents, forming enormous litter islands.

A platform for science, innovation, and education

The expedition will also be a platform for scientists and NGOs to embark with the Schurmann Family and thus carry out "in loco" research in marine ecosystems. This scientific leg of the initiative also includes the participation of a Scientific Advisory Board, composed of 14 renowned Brazilian and foreign scientists.

Finally, the expedition will identify and select disruptive startups with innovative solutions and alternatives to plastics, micro and nano plastics, and carry out an educational programme to generate impact and social transformation.

"The first step of the expedition will last two years. Then we'll gather and decide the focus of the second step, reaching other continents and then returning to Brazil, summing up to six years", says David Schurmann.

The Schurmann family was the first Latin American family to circumnavigate the world in a sailboat, an accomplishment they have completed three times, gathering 37 years of stories, adventures and expeditions at sea. In 1998, during their second round-the-world expedition, they anchored at Henderson Island, in the Pacific Ocean, finding for the first time a plastic invasion in an isolated territory.

In 2015, during their third round-the-world expedition, the family visited West Fayu, an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean, and found it covered by plastics coming from all over the world. This moment was recorded and broadcast on the family's channels, reaching millions of people in Brazil and around the world.

Following these and other unfortunate experiences with marine litter along their voyages, the family decided to stand up for a safer and healthier environment. In 2017, they partnered with UNEP Brazil to support the Clean Seas Campaign, using their voice and influence to turn the tide on plastic waste, then creating the Voice of the Oceans.


About the Clean Seas Campaign

The Clean Seas Campaign, part of UNEP's broader work on tackling marine litter and plastic pollution, shows that 80% of plastics that find their fate in the ocean come from land-based sources. At least 11 million tons of plastic are discarded into our seas annually - an amount that is projected to nearly triple by 2040 without urgent, large-scale action.

About the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

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