Partnering with an unlikely ally to conserve the oceans | WWF
Partnering with an unlikely ally to conserve the oceans

Posted on 11 April 2016

A partnership between WWF and leading cruise company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. addresses such concerns as sustainable food supply, reduced emissions, and greater responsibility in destinations and with tour operators. Here’s how the collaboration will work—and how it could benefit responsible fisheries in the Coral Triangle.
The cruise ship sector is a major industry within the tourism arena, with the world’s oceans as its “base.” As such, it is important for the industry to manage its impact on the environment, particularly the marine ecosystems it comes in close contact with, through more responsible operational standards and practises.

To this end, WWF and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL), a leading global cruise company that counts some 5 million passengers a year, have launched a 5-year partnership to come up with ambitious and quantifiable sustainability targets to reduce RCL’s environmental footprint, and raise marine conservation awareness among the company’s passengers and employees. RCL has pledged US$5 million to support WWF’s global ocean conservation work.

RCL owns Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, Azamara Club Cruises, and CDF Croisières de France, as well as TUI Cruises through a 50% joint venture, accounting for a total of 44 ships sailing to some 490 destinations worldwide.

The partnership was announced in Donsol, Sorsogon, Philippines, home to a model eco-tourism program, last January 25. RCL additionally made a US$200,000 donation to WWF-Philippines’ conservation work in Donsol. “Our mantra at Royal Caribbean is ‘Continuous Improvement,’ and this partnership with WWF represents a great opportunity to take a big step forward in meeting our special responsibility to protect the oceans,” said Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard D. Fain in a press statement. “This new partnership aligns all of us at RCL with WWF’s mission to conserve the world’s oceans. Together we are setting aggressive goals, and together we will start implementing them right away.”

The partnership couldn’t have come at a better time. “The threats that are facing the ocean are greater than ever—in the last 30 years, some ocean wildlife populations have declined by nearly 50%,” said WWF-US President and CEO Carter Roberts at the time of the announcement. “If we are going to reverse the downward trends, we must take serious steps to repair, restore, and protect the oceans.” 

Responsible sourcing

As part of an expanded sustainable sourcing strategy, RCL will work to responsibly source 90% of its wild-caught fish by volume from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified sustainable fisheries, fisheries in full assessment for MSC certification, and comprehensive Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), and from International Seafood Sustainability Association (ISSA) member companies.
In its North American and European operations, RCL has also committed to responsibly sourcing 75% of its farmed seafood by volume from Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)-certified responsible farms, farms in full assessment for ASC certification, and comprehensive aquaculture improvement projects. The company has additionally committed to setting specific traceability targets for obtaining MSC and ASC chain of custody by June 2016.
These sustainable seafood goals are good news to the world’s fisheries, including those in the Coral Triangle. “This should help drive the demand and awareness of the need for fisheries to be more sustainable in the Coral Triangle,” says Jackie Thomas, Leader of the WWF Coral Triangle Programme (CTP). “A significant amount of seafood is already sourced from the Coral Triangle, and the challenge may be for the fishing industry to provide enough fish from certified sources or fish under improvement projects, especially when the sourcing policies of RCL and other cruise ship companies are implemented in the Coral Triangle and Pacific region.”

Ocean vessels annually generate 3.2% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), with the cruise industry responsible for 0.05%. The cruise sector is projected to grow 1.9% annually, however, which could lead to twice the amount of activity—and emissions, if unchecked—by 2050.

In response to this threat, RCL and WWF jointly developed a GHG emissions reduction target of 35% for the company, from its 2005 baseline, to be achieved by 2020. 

Additional target setting

RCL and WWF will also be addressing additional food commodity sustainability, food waste reduction, and destination stewardship. Under the latter, WWF and RCL will be working with local, regional, and global stakeholders to review RCL’s current shore excursion program to strengthen RCL’s destination and tour operator sustainability and assessment process, aligning it with internationally recognized sustainability standards.

Many aspects of the WWF-RCL partnership can be effectively replicated in the CTP’s own work with cruise ship companies and other tourism companies other tourism companies as part of WWF’s work with the tourism sector in the Coral Triangle, in pursuit of sustainable nature-based tourism that considers environmental, social, and cultural as well as economic aspects. Thomas calls it “an excellent fit, as we share similar ambitions that would see the environmental impacts of the cruise sector minimized.”Responsible development of this sector remains critical, however, Thomas emphasises, and such partnerships as that of RCL and WWF can help this to happen.

“It is unrealistic to think that the cruise ship sector should grow unchecked; there has to be an assessment in each country of the carrying capacity for the volume and size of ships visiting the area, and Coral Triangle countries need to have in place sustainability criteria that require cruise ship companies to abide by rules, while co-investing in the protection and management of marine areas that tourists should experience, but which are also critical to the livelihoods and food security of local communities. The interests of the communities and local resource owners must be paramount.”
The threats to Earth’s oceans are many, and this partnership is a key demonstration of how WWF works to reduce these threats by working across sectors, with key partners and influencers, to help achieve a vision where resilient oceans harbour living resources and functioning ecosystems that support rich biodiversity, food security, and sustainable livelihoods


RCL Chairman and CEO, Richard Fain presents a donation to the Donsol Youth Environmental Education Project
© WWF-Philippines
From left to right: WWF-Philippines CEO Joel Palma; President & CEO of WWF-US Carter Roberts and CEO Richard Fain
© WWF-Philippines