Olympic Pairs New Challenge

Olympic and Team NZ sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have founded Live Ocean, an ocean conservation charity.

New Zealand's Antipodean albatross is the first focus of an ocean conservation charity founded by Olympic and Team New Zealand sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

The charity, Live Ocean, will support and invest in promising marine science, innovation, technology and marine conservation projects.

Founded by the gold-medal-winning pair, it aims to be a world leader in ocean health.

Its first project focuses on helping to save New Zealand's Antipodean albatross, which will become functionally extinct unless immediate action is taken. 

The albatross' breeding population is in freefall, declining from 17,000 in 2004 to just 6000 this year, Tuke says.

"We have our blinkers on when it comes to the ocean, it's much harder to see the issues than on land.

"The Antipodean albatross is an indicator of what's happening in the ocean," Tuke says.

"We need to step up as a team because there are things we can do today to save them from extinction. These birds are New Zealanders."

The charity is appealing to the public to donate on its website.

It is hoped Live Ocean will inspire and educate Kiwis on ways to make positive change for the ocean.

"This is just the start," Burling said.

"We've called it Live Ocean because that's what we all want. New Zealand should be a world leader in ocean health, we have over four million square kilometres of ocean and what we do here is globally significant."

Talking to a range of scientists, iwi and ocean leaders, the two kept hearing the same thing, Tuke said.

"The ocean is changing quickly, these are complex issue and we need to invest in promising marine research, innovation, people and projects," he said.

"We need to move much faster."

A recent report by the IPCC, The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere said urgent action is needed at scale to protect and restore the ocean.

90 per cent of seabirds in New Zealand are threatened with, or at risk of extinction and almost one-third of marine mammals are threatened.

Less than 0.5 per cent of our marine territory is fully protected.

Despite a hectic sailing schedule, Burling and Tuke see Live Ocean working in parallel to sailing.

"We've got the right team to drive it forward while we're out on the water," Burling says.

"The best thing we can do for Live Ocean is to race well."

Words by Kim Moodie

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