Faces of Acre – Working to protect our oceans

27 July 2021 by Grace Coleman
blog author

Behind the scenes of the impactful roles we place, the teams we build, our dedication to tackling climate change and sustainability challenges, is our ever growing and passionate team. In our ongoing ‘Faces of Acre’ series, we want to shine a spotlight on the people who make up the Acre team and give our employees a platform to share their passions, speak up on important topics and talk about the pro bono work they take part in.  

In our latest Faces of Acre installment, we sat down with Jack Mulloy, Principal Consultant, Sustainable Finance and Impact Investing, to discuss his pro bono work as a business developer for the marine conservation charity Sea Shepherd. Jack shared with us the passion he has had for marine conservation since childhood, the incredible work he has already done to contribute to the protection of our oceans and how his role at Acre aligns with his work at Sea Shepherd. 

Tell us a bit more about Sea Shepherd? 

Sea Shepherd is a marine conservation charity whose primary mission is to end the destruction of habitats and illegal killing of wildlife around the UK's coastline and across the world’s oceans, in order to conserve and protect marine ecosystems and species. The charity has taken on the task of enforcing the UN Charter. The world charter for nature was established by the UN General Assembly in 1982 and in effect it upholds science based standards for fishing practices in regards of the amount of catch. This includes a list of species that are not to be targeted, along with a list of marine protected areas globally that cannot be fished. Around 20% of the world’s land is protected, however less than 1% of the ocean is protected, because the ocean is so vast, it's very difficult to police. Sea Shepherd has assumed the task of taking direct action, documenting abuses to the UN Charter, intervening where possible, and driving education and awareness on all of the crimes against the natural world and the ocean. This includes overfishing, whaling, shark finning, ghost nets, bycatch, whatever the abuse, unfortunately this is oftenthe last line of defence for these critically endangered species.  

What campaigns are Sea Shepherd currently working on? 

Sea Shepherd has launched a large campaign called Pilot Whale Defence, which is exposing and trying to prevent the slaughter of dolphins and pilot whales in the Faroe Islands. In Iceland, it's a practice that is highly sensitive and controversial in the international stage, because the Icelandic Sol claims that it's a cultural tradition, but they're an endangered species. Sea Shepherd is trying to prevent this from happening by trying to educate people. It has a ghost net campaign running at the moment, which is sending divers down across UK coastal waters across the Mediterranean and parts of France, pulling up marine debris effectively, that can accidentally entangle seabirds, marine mammals, turtles, etc. There is also a beach cleaning campaign going on around the UK and Sea Shepherd is one of the organisations trying to prevent the Vaquita porpoise from going extinct in the Sea of Cortez, as there's only six or seven of them left. They're highly valuable for markets in China and in Mexico unfortunately. The flagship campaign and the longest lasting one is the protection of the Southern Ocean against the Japanese whaling fleet, which for decades has been going against all international law and most years senselessly slaughtering dozens, if not hundreds, of critically endangered large whales, which are top of the food chain, and critical for the health of the origin. This is something that Sea Shepherd will be doing on an ongoing basis, it's the charity’s big strategy to continue media campaigns and education.  

Why did the charity choose to support the recent Netflix documentary Seaspiracy?  

Well, it's a snapshot of the loss of biodiversity, the pressures of globalisation, and the lack of any credible or impactful enforcement of international law. It identifies the fact that culturally, our attitude towards the food chain, and the ocean needs to shift because at the moment, we see it as an extractive relationship, we don't live in synergy or in symbiosis with it. I think that was the point, we are near to a complete collapse of that ecosystem globally, this was the final sounding of the alarm bell. We're running out of time; this isn't something that we can debate any longer. This is not something that we can put to the back of our minds. Everybody's accountable for this. It was really trying to get that into the consciousness of the world. The core value of Sea Shepherd is speaking the truth and presenting the naked truth but in quite a graphic way to spark that debate. 

Why did you choose Sea Shepherd to do pro bono work for?  

It goes back to childhood, I'm from the generation that grew up on David Attenborough and I stumbled upon Jacques Cousteau, early in life who became a bit of a hero of mine. I don't have many heroes, but I'd say Jacques Cousteau is an enduring hero.  I was then lucky enough to have an uncle who founded a marine conservation charity. While I was at university, I lived in Asia for a year working on marine protection projects in the Philippines and Cambodia.  

I came back from that trip in 2010. As my mother can attest, I didn't want to go back to university, I wanted to join Sea Shepherd as a crew member on one of their boats. I became quite radicalised after a year seeing up front the destruction of habitats. That didn't happen but I stayed focused on Sea Shepherd and kept up with all their campaigns over the next 10 years.  

I have been working at Acre for five-and-a-half years now and from speaking with hundreds of climate scientists, analysts and specialists in this space, I've realised over the years how bad a job we're doing at protecting the oceans and how much worse the biodiversity loss situation has got. The direct action and iconoclastic tones of Sea Shepherd drew me back in.  I felt as though I'd finally reached a point in my career where I could use the network and the knowledge that I gained in five years at Acre and leverage that towards something in a non-profit sense. I've always been drawn to direct action in the non-profit space with the work I've done in the Mediterranean with the Syrian refugee crisis. I felt as though I wanted to not just do it on an unstructured basis, I wanted to actually align my career to that world and try and carve out some time.  

Could you tell us more about the work that you did in Asia? 

I was living on a beach for a year across Cambodia and the Philippines, working with a team of volunteer marine biologists, scientists, and general volunteers, all doing dive training and learning how to conduct marine protection surveys. We were looking at biodiversity in coral reefs and making recommendations to local governments on which coastal areas to protect based on the biodiversity health, which areas to focus on regenerating by setting up new fishing zones, and which areas to prevent development on, so that there wasn't habitat destruction. The reports were collated and sent off to a fisheries department within the Philippines and Cambodian governments as well as economic development ministries. During that time, I became a dive master, then started training more junior members of the project teams that were coming onboard.  

I realised from my time there just how fragile the marine ecosystems are, along with how quickly a system can collapse. I saw in real time just how ungovernable the oceans truly are and how vast they are. I had an experience where a Vietnamese or Chinese pirate fishing vessel dropped an anchor on me when I was underwater and it landed in between myself and my dive buddy. We had a dive safety marker and a buoy up on the surface. We saw these illegal fishing vessels all the time, they were pulling up nets that would have contained sea turtles, baby sharks, and all sorts of other critically endangered species. They were doing that in violation of international law, but they were getting away with it because there's no sea police, which is again, why I think the role of Sea Shepherd is critical, because the charity takes the risks. Sea Shepherd enforces international conventions and is the last line of defence. I also learned how stunningly beautiful and numinous the underwater world is and how irresponsible, immoral and unthinkably sad it would be to lose that. That year abroad was the most formative experience of my life in that it set me off down my career path within sustainability and conservation. 

How does your work with Sea Shepherd align with the work you do at Acre? 

Both Sea Shepherd and Acre are very mission driven. Acre was founded by Andy Cartland who has a passion for biodiversity and that’s how Andy and I clicked in my first interview at Acre as we were talking about our obsession with it. So, it resonates in that sense that it's part of what the business was set up to preserve and to try and protect ultimately. Through the work that we do via the company’s charity arm the Acre Foundation and as a business we are focused on giving back and putting time into causes that we care about. Both Andy and Richard Wright, Acre’s CEO, have been extremely supportive of the work I am doing with Sea Shepherd, it really resonates with our values of making an impact and I am lucky they have allowed me to use my skillset to make a difference.  

 What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing pro bono work? Would you encourage them to do so? 

Yes absolutely, it's been so invigorating. It fits within the narrative of Acre about being an impactful business and about investing in the space that we cover, because we genuinely care and we're trying to build capacity into this space.  I think it's good to use the knowledge that we built up, as we become experienced consultants in the space, we really have a huge amount of intellectual capital because of the conversations we're able to have. If we can harness that and the skills that we have and put it to use in a non-profit sense, then there is no better way to give back.  

To learn more about Sea Shepherd’s mission and to learn how you can volunteer, please go to: https://www.seashepherd.org.uk/who-we-are/  

If you would like to speak to Jack about corporate partnerships, events, fundraising or donations, please contact him via jack@seashepherduk.org