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Blancpain renews its commitment to ocean conservation with new programmes

Drew Richardson, Laurent Ballesta and Marc A. Hayek.

CEO Marc A Hayek is tripling down on efforts to help achieve Target 3 of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

Our global climate is facing a major crisis. Though it hasn’t been much reported in the news, a global coral bleaching event occurred between February and April 2024. About 75 per cent of all corals experienced heat stress (think heat exhaustion for humans), and nearly 30 per cent were at risk of coral bleaching (that’s a heat stroke, in a manner of speaking). This is the fourth global event on record and the second in the last decade.

An image by Greenpeace Australia Pacific shows parts of the Great Barrier Reef bleaching earlier this year.
An image by Greenpeace Australia Pacific shows parts of the Great Barrier Reef bleaching earlier this year.

Coral reefs are essential for anyone who loves marine life or simply seafood. Around 25 per cent of all aquatic life begins in coral reefs; for many sea creatures, it is their permanent habitat. Bleached corals cannot sustain marine ecosystems; as one dies, so does the other. It’s essential that the world aggressively pursues the ‘30 by 30’ goal set in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. That’s to protect 30 per cent of marine areas by 2030 in the form of protected areas and more.

Where the World Stands

Brown gorgonian coral on Santa Cruz Island, a Marine Protected Area. Image by Danny Ocampo. This coral is highly susceptible to bleaching and oil spills.
Brown gorgonian coral on Santa Cruz Island, a Marine Protected Area. Image by Danny Ocampo. This coral is highly susceptible to bleaching and oil spills.

Unfortunately, we’re nowhere near the goal: today, just 5.7 per cent of the world’s marine areas are well protected. Another 3.7 per cent have been proposed but unimplemented as of today. That leaves over 20 per cent to be covered in the next six years. While all this may be frustrating to read, Blancpain CEO Marc A Hayek is not giving up. In fact, he’s expanding Blancpain’s commitment to the oceans with new projects and establishing more Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in support of the GBF.

Speaking at a Blancpain Ocean Commitment panel at the Fifty Fathoms’ 70th anniversary celebrations last year, Hayek highlighted the importance of corporate and civil action in the face of political passivity. He also spoke about childhood holidays by the sea and pointed out that the Earth’s biosystems are intricately tied; failure to protect one will have consequences for land and air.

At the Blancpain Ocean Commitment panel (L-R): Jason Heaton, Charles Goddard, Marc A. Hayek, Laurent Ballesta, Andrew Sharpless and Drew Richardson.
At the Blancpain Ocean Commitment panel (L-R): Jason Heaton, Charles Goddard, Marc A Hayek, Laurent Ballesta, Andrew Sharpless, and Drew Richardson.

Later that evening, CROWN discussed with him the activities that Blancpain was supporting globally. Many of these programmes are locally developed by organisations that have little recognition; what Blancpain is doing is enabling them to scale up and build impact or awareness.

One UNSEEN Expedition is in Maluku, where researchers are cataloging coral specimens and recording their sizes and locations, to be able to track the impact of bleaching events.
One UNSEEN Expedition is in Maluku, where researchers catalogue coral specimens and record their sizes and locations to track the impact of bleaching events.

To that end, Blancpain has revamped its digital platform dedicated to the Blancpain Ocean Commitment. Now, visitors can gain an overview of Blancpain’s close association with the oceans and the pioneers of ocean exploration. They can also discover details of the UNSEEN Expeditions Blancpain is supporting or has supported in the past for scientific research and marine protection. These range from reef cleaning to mangrove planting, Sea Academies, and more.

Recovery of the Bajos del Norte National Park, a MPA created to protect the area against overfishing, has seen fish stocks recover rapidly.

The recovery of the Bajos del Norte National Park, an MPA created to protect the area against overfishing, has seen fish stocks recover rapidly.

10,000 MPAs?

Finally, they can also take part in marine conservation through PADI’s Adopt the Blue programme. This is a citizen science programme that hopes to piggyback on PADI’s dive centres and resorts to increase the number of MPAs in the world exponentially. PADI has set a staggering target of 10,000 locations to be registered by 2025.

The Blancpain Ocean Commitment aims to set 10,000 marine locations for ocean protection with PADI’s Adopt the Blue programme.
The Blancpain Ocean Commitment aims to set 10,000 marine locations for ocean protection with PADI’s Adopt the Blue programme.

It may sound wildly unbelievable, but diving spots are invariably great tourist locations and, therefore, an income source not only for locals but also for governments. When tourists use their financial power to demand action from global leaders, we may very well see change on the scale that’s needed. In just a few years, MPAs can recover much of the damage inflicted on them by climate changes; most actually create an increase in marine populations, leading to bigger catches by fishermen. This is a programme that benefits everyone in the long run.

Blancpain CEO Marc A. Hayek and head of PADI, Drew Richardson.
Blancpain CEO Marc A Hayek and head of PADI Drew Richardson.

It’s important to recognise that in the entire Swiss watch industry, only two brands have a structured and comprehensive programme in pursuing the ’30 by 30’ initiative. One is Rolex; the other is Blancpain. This is not a put-down of any other brands, many of which support various humanitarian or sociocultural agendas. For Blancpain to set this goal is a commitment beyond any we’ve seen before. After all, until last year, most people didn’t know the brand at all. Hayek is capitalising on the brand’s newfound equity in a valuable way; we definitely hope that Blancpain succeeds for the sake of the world.

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Editor

Darren has been writing about, and admiring the craft of watchmaking for over a dozen years. He considers himself lucky to live in a golden age of horology, and firmly believes that the most difficult watches to design are the simplest and the most intriguing to discover.