Our
History

Commons Seas' mission and approach today has been shaped through a combination of our founder Jo Royle’s previous career at sea skippering expeditions and trans-ocean yacht races including voyages across the Atlantic, Pacific and down to the Antarctic together with a decade of ground-breaking work.

‘The UK Plastics Pact will transform how we use plastic packaging in the UK - eliminating what is unnecessary and ensuring what remains is deigned to be recyclable and is recycled. WRAP has been pleased to work with Common Seas in developing this coordinated approach to tackling the challenges of plastic packaging without losing the benefits it brings.’  Marcus Gover
Chief Executive Officer, WRAP

Ocean Friendly Design and UK Plastic Pact

Since 2014, Common Seas has been convening businesses to explore the concept of Ocean Friendly Design. Building an independent cross-sector movement that coordinates, connects and catalyses stakeholders from across the plastics supply and recovery chains to deliver solutions and drive standards resulting in a reform of product design, recovery and policies to enable the end of plastic pollution in the ocean. Specific focus is on understanding industry standards in quality and governance to design out the polymers, materials and systems that contribute most significantly to plastic polluting the environment.

In 2017, HRH Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit invited Common Seas to convene the Ocean Friendly Design Forum, which ended in consensus for clear standards and guidelines that help optimise packaging for efficient re-use and recovery systems. This led to the creation of the UK Plastic Pact, comprising more than 40 major businesses pledging to eradicate single-use plastics. Common Seas remains a founding member of the Plastic Pact.

“I-VMS offers a real prospect to UK fisheries to get ahead of the curve when it comes to regulators and suppliers working together to make fully documented fisheries work and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Common Seas for their tireless work in contributing to a stronger future for a more sustainable fishing industry.” Tom Rossiter
Head of Fisheries at Succorfish

Enabling England’s first fully documented inshore fishery

How can we make inshore fisheries both profitable and sustainable? This is the kind of design challenge Common Seas is drawn to and, in 2013, we began designing an approach that could do just that. Focusing on a pilot area in the UK, Devon and Severn inshore fisheries district, we collaborated closely with technical experts, fisheries' managers, fishermen and national government to develop the technology, systems and legislation to implement and mandate Inshore Vessel Monitoring Units (IVMS). Managing the installation and training of IVMS on over 100 boats has for the first time in England resulted in an entire fishing fleet being tracked in real time, understanding who is fishing where and when. This provides a bedrock tool of fisheries and conservation management, which enables marine conservation zones and fisheries' protected areas to be managed and enforced. The model demonstrated at the regional level is now being rolled out across England.

"During their 128-day journey, the six-member crew lived in a cabin of just 20 feet by 15 feet (6 meters by 4.5 meters), took saltwater showers, and survived on a diet of dehydrated and canned food, supplemented with the occasional vegetable from their small on-board garden. Along the way, they fought giant ocean swells, 62-knot (70mph) winds, temperatures up to 38C and torn sails. The crew briefly stopped in Queensland last week, after battling a brutal storm off the Australian coast." The Guardian

Plastiki: showcasing circular design and raising awareness of ocean plastic pollution.

The Plastiki was a groundbreaking campaign from 2010 that reached millions of people showcasing circular design potential and raising awareness of the impending ocean plastic pollution crisis.

Common Seas was a key partner in designing and building Plastiki - the world’s first closed-loop design ocean-going sailing boat, using only sustainably sourced, reusable or recyclable materials. To demonstrate the potential in the circular design, the boat was sailed for three months, skippered by Jo Royle, 8,000 miles across the world’s largest ocean – the Pacific. Twelve thousand used plastic bottles provided the boat's buoyancy and attracted the curiosity of the world’s media. Plastiki’s partners included: Hewlett Packard, Inmarsat, Nike, Khiels and IWC.

Jo Royle speaking at TEDx Talk

Other Notable work

Common Seas has always been at the forefront of cross-sector convening and the design of community-led solutions to marine sustainability challenges. Notable work includes supporting the UK Government in developing marine protected areas (MPA) and fully protected marine reserves in Overseas Territories. We played an instrumental role in supporting the designation of the Blue Belt, collaborating to pioneer the development of a big data platform to support fisheries' monitoring and enforcement, and publishing of papers supporting the impacts of these MPA's.

Encounter Edu and Common Seas have collaborated over the years to influence UK Government policy in bringing ocean-related topics into the school curriculum. The organisation is inspired through extensive at-sea and in-the-field experiences, helping coastal communities around the world develop innovative solutions to pressing sustainability challenges, ranging from the design of England's first scallop ranch to responding to the climate change impacts of increasing salinity using vertical gardens in Bangladesh.

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