Status Row: Rowing the Atlantic to Beat Plastic Pollution

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The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is the premier event in ocean rowing and one of the world’s toughest endurances. It will take teams more than 3000 miles west from San Sebastian in LA Gomera, Canary Island to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda. The race begins in early December with up to 30 teams participating from around the world. One team is Status Row, the only female trio who are three​ amateur ​rower​s.

Status Row has also set themselves an extraordinary challenge, as apart from participating in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – they have decided to break the world record for both men and women and cross the Atlantic in 50 days! The current records are 51 days for men and 60 for women. They want to prove​ that with the right mindset and support that anyone can do anything, but crucially they also want to inspire other​ women ​​to challenge themselves​ ​and the ‘status quo’​ and is why their team name is Status Row.

Ocean conservation is Status Row’s shared passion, as together they care about the environment and have a love and respect for the sea. The more Status Row has learnt about the threat of plastic pollution, the more they have realized, that there was an urgent need to act and raise awareness.

This is why Status Row has partnered with the UK’s leading charity in this sector, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and are raising public awareness about plastic in our oceans and raise money for the charity, while they train, prepare and participate in this race. For this voyage Status Row will ensure they have plastic free toothbrushes, environmentally friendly toiletries, swimwear and other essentials for this Challenge.

It is estimated 12.7 million tons of plastic – everything from plastic bottles and bags to microbeads – end up in our oceans each year. That’s a truck load of rubbish a minute. This plastic is turning up in every corner of our planet – from beaches, to uninhabited Pacific islands. It is even found trapped in Arctic ice.

Our oceans are slowly turning into a plastic soup and the effects on ocean life are chilling. Big pieces of plastic are choking and entangling turtles and seabirds and tiny pieces are clogging the stomachs of creatures who mistake it for food, from tiny zooplankton to whales. Plastic is now entering every level of the ocean food chain and even ending our plates.

This July the MCS has launched its third Plastic Challenge, and it looks like it’ll be bigger than ever, encouraging the British public to #GOPlasticFree

While, in June, India was the global host for World Environment Day and was commended by the United Nations (UN) for setting an example on the world stage by committing to beat plastic pollution and showcased best practices and innovations to overcome the challenges of plastic pollution. India is a very vocal and proactive member of the UN Environment Assembly that governs the UN environment programme and is inspiring change within local communities.

Fishermen in Kerala, along India’s Southern coast, have shown what a community on its own can do to curb plastic waste choking the seas. With a coastline that stretches over 600 kilometers, Kerala is not just known for its pristine beaches, but also as one of the country’s top producers of fish, which is home to more than a million people who largely depend on fisheries for their livelihood. But with the rising tide of plastic pollution in the seas where they do fishing, the fish output has recently been declining.

Therefore, in a unique initiative to beat plastic pollution, which is threatening both their livelihood and the marine life – the fishermen apart from hauling the fish from their daily trips to seas are also bringing back large quantities of plastic waste. The fishermen community has been doing this from the last 10 months as part of the government’s Suchitwa Sagaram (Clean Sea) project, which aims at reducing plastic waste accumulation in the sea and intends to make waste-free harbours.

As fish trawlers lay their nets in the sea, they end up scooping out huge amounts of plastic that get entangled in the nets along with the fish. In the past, they would simply release the plastic junk back into the water, but now the fishermen – who have received training through the Suchitwa Sagaram initiative – are bringing that plastic back to shore.

According to data by the UN Environment, this fishing community has successfully collected 25 tons of plastic waste, including discarded fishing nets, plastic bags and other single-use plastic bottles. Of the 800 fishing vessels that operate from the harbours, around 30 boats bring plastic waste from the sea each day. Once brought from the sea, the plastic material is collected at the fishing harbour. From there, the waste is fed into a plastic shredding machine, which turns it into material that is then used for road surfacing.

For Status Row life on board will be very different to life on land​; ​it will be about survival and success​. ​They will be rowing the boat 24 hours a day, with each team member working in a two hours on, two hours off shift pattern, all day, every day, for an estimated 50 days. Facing sleep deprivation, ​basic dried food, small spaces, monotonous​ ​routine, salt sores, ​​a bucket ​for a toilet and the expanse of the ocean ​around us – they will be tested mentally and so will their friendship.

But these three women have a comradeship that is bonded by passion and determination, where they whole-heartedly believe that one generation’s actions can reverse the damages done to the planet. Their adventure has never been just about the physical and mental tests of the Talisker Atlantic Challenge, but more about hope and being able to inspire others to make a difference.

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