David Tomlinson of Flamingo Bay: “It Feels Good to Help”

Editor’s note: Capt. David Tomlinson is the newest recipient of the Fabien Cousteau Blue Award from the International Superyacht Society (ISS). The award recognizes stewards of marine ecosystems, be they individuals or organizations.  Tomlinson owned and ran the 125-foot Flamingo Bay for more than three decades. Part yacht, part research vessel, Flamingo Bay assisted in documenting and filming what lies beneath, both the good and the bad. Together, Tomlinson and his yacht educated countless people about the marine environment. Today, the national holiday of Thanksgiving, seemed a fitting time to share his reflections about ocean sustainability and how we all can make a difference. His commentary comes courtesy of the ISS.

David TomlinsonWhat an honour for me to be the recipient of the 2016 ISS Fabien Cousteau Blue Award. I’ve never sought recognition of my efforts in helping find out how our oceans work, what’s in them, or how to sustainably use them during my 30+ years of running long-range diving research ships around Australia and the SW Pacific. My thirst for knowledge has been like an addiction fed by the ability to help universities, museums, government agencies, and even individual scientists get into the field and find out what it’s all about. My specialty has been taking people safely into the middle of nowhere to stay for a while as we try to analyse how extraordinary our oceans and reef systems truly are. 

During my nearly 6,000 hours underwater, I’ve learned a lot, but I’m also aware of how little we really know about our marine environment and that globally our oceans, and all that live within them, are under stresses like never before. Time is now our enemy in finding solutions to the ever-increasing daily challenges to the health of our planet. Our atmosphere is challenged; our lands are wounded; and, our oceans are disrespected to the extent that all living things are facing a future that tests their very existence.

This stark reality hits home when you understand how little we know about our marine world and that now those trying to find out are doing so with at least one hand tied behind their backs. Marine researchers and ocean managers globally are finding themselves fighting for budget, or any funding, to allow them to continue discovering and to find solutions.

As I stood on stage to accept the award, I looked out on a room filled with the leaders of the yachting industry toasting the advancements in technologies, design, and capabilities which demonstrate how far the industry has grown. 

I challenge each of you, as you celebrate your successes—which become a legacy for your future generations—to consider another legacy you can wear proudly: adopt a scientist or a marine institute in your backyard. No matter where you live—that nearby marine environment that you love so dearly—has either someone, or an organization, trying to further understand its importance and to help develop ways to sustainably interact to ensure its long-term survival. They need your support. That spare 50- or 100-dollar bill in your pocket can help immensely. Sadly, in today’s world financial resources are limited or non-existent to aid in these worthwhile quests. Also, think about volunteering your boat to help researchers get access to distant grounds to help in furthering discovery. 

These are just a couple suggestions on how you can help, and I promise you… it feels good.

You know you smile when you watch your own grandchildren’s faces light up with their moments of discovery… so you know you’ll feel really good knowing some child somewhere in the future will squeal with glee as they too discover how extraordinary our oceans are. What they see may be still there as a direct result of your help. Consider that!

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