Wietse van der Werf
During a sailing trip on the Mediterranean Sea, where Wietse van der Werf saw more waste floating around in the ocean than wildlife, Wietse realised that protecting the world’s oceans is the biggest issue of our time. Since then he is on a mission. His work sets out to mitigate a shortcoming in conservation: conservation efforts are increasingly hampered by the limited capacity of authorities. In 2010 Wietse founded the Black Fish organisation, a grassroots movement that trains volunteers to collect evidence for wildlife crimes. In 2016 he started a new project, the Sea Ranger Service, where he brings together unemployed youth and navy veterans to become a new workforce of ocean protectors.
Wietse van der Werf studied to be a violin maker, but his great passion for nature inspired him to switch to the world of conservation. During a sailing trip on the Mediterranean Sea, where he saw more waste floating around in the ocean then wildlife, Wietse realised that protecting the world’s oceans is the biggest issue of our time. Wietse faces the issues from a positive perspective, not by confronting people with the frightening urgency to make a change, but by inspiring the youth and inspecting different out of the box opportunities to protect the ocean.
Vision and Approach
Wietse’s mission is to protect the world’s oceans by realising citizen-led enforcement. His work sets out to mitigate a shortcoming in conservation: especially in the case of fisheries, conservation efforts are increasingly hampered by the limited capacity of authorities. Wietse works to mobilise regular citizens and to crowdsource their skills and resources to release unique monitoring capacity, from land, air and sea. He set up several organisations to achieve this, including The Black Fish organisation (2010), the Wildlife Air Service (2014) and the Sea Ranger Service (2016).
“The Future For Nature Award made it possible to set up the Sea Ranger Service, the first international maritime ranger service. With this social enterprise, we offer maritime education opportunities to unemployed young people. Retired navy personnel are involved in training these young Sea Rangers, to train them in seven weeks to support governments in managing protected sea areas.”Wietse van der Werf
Impact of the Future For Nature Award
- Winning the award gave a ‘stamp of approval’ and it made it so much easier to get additional investors and government support.
- Wietse shares that for him it is inspiring to be continually involved in the Future for Nature community and learn from the effective conservation approaches of other winners
"I am impressed by his idea to motivate private pilots and yacht owners to participate in a private investigator network and record their findings on potential illegal activities. I see a big potential in this approach to motivate people to contribute to conservation during their leisure time, thus creating a net of high-level advocates in the EU."Ms. Masha Vorontsova, International Selection Committee