Founder of the Fortescue Metals Group, Andrew Forrest, has announced he will contribute $100 million to his Minderoo Foundation to extend its activities to the protection of the ocean.
Mr Forrest said the funding would support the Minderoo Ocean Research Initiative, a new global research program to be undertaken aboard his newly acquired Pangea Ocean Explorer, a 184-foot ice-class vessel which will enable scientists to monitor ocean waters from the poles to the equator.
Minderoo’s long-term plans to study and conserve ocean life include a commitment to found a Global Fishing Index, following Minderoo’s success establishing the Global Slavery Index, the fourth edition of which was launched at UN Headquarters on 19 July 2018.
The study will be a collaboration with more than 20 research institutions world-wide, including the Sea Around Us, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Ocean Elders, University of Western Australia’s Marine Futures Lab, James Cook University’s College of Science and Engineering, The University of Queensland’s Centre for Marine Science, University of Technology Sydney, University College London’s Department of Geography, University of Plymouth, Oceana, Global Fishing Watch, Eachmile Technologies (creators of Fishcoin), The Ocean Health Index, The Living Planet Global Footprint, Overseas Development Institute - ODI, FishSpektrum, WA Museum, The Red List Index, Luc Hoffmann Institute and WWF Australia.
Speaking at the launch of the initiative, Mr Forrest said it was well known that our oceans are in deep trouble.
“They have been sorely depleted, we have had a lack of measurement, a lack of understanding, we have had a very short-term frame of our thinking, and as a result our oceans are emptying of fish and filling with plastic.”
Mr Forrest criticised the Federal Government's decision to open up more than 44 marine parks to commercial fishing, with a vote in the Senate on amended legislation expected within weeks which , if passed will result in four hundred thousand square kilometres of ocean will losing their IUCN II (no extraction) zoning. He called for a hold on the vote to enable more careful consideration of the science, and said a petition will be submitted to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
“Stripping marine parks away from oceans when they are the only proven solution to ocean conservation - these great hubs of procreation, these great hubs of biodiversity, these great hubs of fish sustainability – getting stripped right back is something of which every Australian ought to be deeply concerned about.”
Mr Forrest said that governments around the world where fisheries had been depleted were subsidising their fishing industries to send fleets to Australian waters, including marine parks, where they can “take everything before them”.
A research facility will also be set up at Exmouth to study the migration of sea life through the Indian Ocean.
Minderoo Foundation research chairwoman Fiona David said the Ningaloo Centre facility would become a “world class” research hub.
“By opening the door to world leading research, Minderoo expects the region will receive greater scientific recognition and continue to attract more tourism,” she said.