Our formula these last three decades has been simple:
Wake up at sunrise, work hard to collect good quality data to construct a robust scientific foundation for management, and then sit down at a table with all relevant stakeholders, presenting the science and opening a discussion to workon solutions through collaboration based on empathy, respect and trust.
Our small size allows us to work without bureaucratic burden and feel in control of our programmes, monitoring the results.
Some of our greatest achievements to date are:
· MARINE PROTECTED AREAS – Alnitak has contributed directly to the making of a total of 14 marine protected areas (MPA) in the Mediterranean and Horn of Africa. Of these, 8 have been designed solely on the data collected by Toftevaag. In addition, the Toftevaag keeps monitoring some of these during applied science expeditions, to keep working alongside managers and ensure optimal conservation plans.
· BYCATCH – The shocking bycatch ofbetween 20 - 30.000 loggerhead turtles per year by the Spanish long-lining fleet was what started up Alnitak. Instead of vilifying these fishers, we have collaborated with the fleet since 1986 and with the help of NOAA managed to develop technological measures to reduce the bycatch rate by over 95% in the swordfish fishery.
· NOISE & VESSEL STRIKES – Noise pollution is one of the main habitat alterations of the planet’s Oceans since the invasion of engines, propellers and sonar starting in the 20th century. Measuring and monitoring this man-made noise and developing standard protocols for the NATURA 2000 Network has been one of the main achievements of Alnitak. In 2005 we presented our data to the Spanish Merchant Navy with a proposal to alter shipping routes in the Alboran Sea (Western Mediterranean). We drafted a presentation and report that they presented at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for the reconfiguration of shipping traffic separation schemes. Achieving unanimous support at IMO, six months later it was on the sea charts and Notice to Mariners. Moving over 25% of the Worlds maritime traffic achieving a total win-win and 100% compliance.
· SONAR AND BEAKED WHALES – In 1999 NATO closed off a “high risk site” for sonar use in the Alboran Sea based on Alnitak’s preliminary data. Following up from this, collaboration with NATO and the US Navy led to the developing of a Sonar – Beaked whale risk map for the entire Mediterranean and the ACCOBAMS beaked whale initiative, based on the spatial modelling tool developed by Alnitak’s co-founder Ana Cañadas.
· EXCHANGING PERSPECTIVES & TRAIN THE TRAINERS – In 2003 Alnitak started specialising in capacity development, firstly of fishers and later also researchers and fisheries and MPA managers. The particularity of these “train the trainers” programmes is that they are on board ships, which has proven a perfect working environment for exchanging perspectives. These programmes have been conducted in Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Malta, Djibouti and all of central and South America.
· CITIZEN SCIENCE – Alnitak was inspired by the Earthwatch Institute in the early 80’s, and finally set up avolunteering programme in coordination with Earthwatch that has been internationally awarded. Nearly 4.000 volunteers from 98 countries.
· A MEETING PLACE – The village of Toftevaag was a Viking “meeting place”, and Toftevaag the boat has been ameeting place of people passionate for the sea. Since 1989, the list of research institutions that have worked on Toftevaag with Alnitak is an indicator of the interest Toftevaag’s projects have raised worldwide (Universities of Autónoma and Complutense of Madrid, Alcalá de Henares, Camilo José Cela - SEK, Alicante, Valencia, Autónoma de Barcelona, Almería, Málaga, Cádiz, Islas Baleares, La Laguna, Las Palmas, Oxford, St. Andrews – SMRU, Kiel, Siena, Montpelier, Hawaii, Cambridge, Stanford – Hopkins Marine Station, RhodeIsland, Duke Marine Lab, Cook, Malta, Alicante and Granada, and research institutions of I.E.O., Azti, ICTS SOCIB, DTU Aqua, IFREMER, Woodshole Oceanographic Institution, NOAA NMFS, NOAA, IFAW, Widecast, OceanCare, KAIMarine, SEO BirdLife and inter-governmental organisations ICES, ICCAT, CMSACCOBAMS, UNEP, UNDP, FAO GFCM, I.M.O., US Navy, Earthwatch Institute, Fundación BBVA, Fundación ASHOKA, Fundación Reina Sofía, Fundación and SAVE THE MED Foundation.
· ASHOKA – In 2014 our chairman and founder Ricardo Sagarminaga was selected as an ASHOKA fellow for his special approach to marine conservation and stakeholder engagement. This allowed Alnitak to replicate our formula to several sites in the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific. In Djibouti this replicate was conducted in the context of a Marine Protected Area programme of the Global Environment Fund and the United Nations Environment Programme.