Alnitak

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Alnitak is an ocean conservation project that provides volunteering opportunities in the Balearic Sea, surveying beautiful, protected waters, monitoring tuna, sperm whales, dolphins, loggerhead turtles and sea birds. We are a small grassroots organisation with a strong focus on sustainability. Besides the opportunity of encountering amazing wildlife, our volunteers can sail on our fabulous and unique ancient Norwegian ketch, which has been converted into an expedition vessel. We believe everyone should have the chance to contribute to healthy oceans. With this in mind, we invite volunteers of all ages, background and nationality on board. No experience is necessary!
Member since: 30 Jan 2019

How the minimum criteria of the responsible travel standard was met...

Economic responsibility

Alnitak has carried out non-profit work for over 30 years. During that time we have contributed to establishing 14 MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) and developed top-quality conservation strategies that have been used as models around the world. Our scientific program is called “Todos por la mar” – “Everyone for the Sea”. This is an acknowledgment of all the different people and organisations that we’ve collaborated with over the years. In fact, we work by collaborating with every group that has a stake in the ocean: fishermen, tourists, teachers, local schools, universities and coastal communities.

To help preserve biodiversity, we believe it’s important to empower fishermen with positive leadership skills and strategies for ocean conservation. With the support of Fundación Biodiversidad and the EU Fisheries Fund, we have set up a pioneering program as a direct collaboration with selected tuna vessels in the Mediterranean. Overall, we want to focus on supporting the fishermen who are doing their job in a responsible manner, as they are the people who will ultimately create an efficient and sustainable practice.

Environmental responsibility

Some of our achievements so far:

• The data our volunteers help to collect has directly contributed to the expansion of 100,000 hectares of marine protected area in the Cabrera Archipelago in 2018.
• Our past work on loggerhead sea turtles has contributed to the reduction of by-catch by 95%.
• We have managed to change shipping lanes in the Western Mediterranean to reduce the chance of ship collisions – a hazard to sperm whale populations.
• Last summer, our educational program has encouraged over 110 students from 25 different schools to campaign against plastic pollution.

Conservation of marine ecosystems

Loggerhead Sea Turtles – when we encounter a loggerhead at sea, we fit them with a satellite tag. The tag relays information on temperature, depth and location of the sea turtle, which helps us understand the ecology of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and apply the results to conservation. Data is integrated into SOCIB’s Integrated Ocean Observation System.

Dolphins - Tracking cetaceans, sea birds and great pelagic fish, providing data to design Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and management plans. In 2019, Alnitak will begin a long-term population study on local Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus).

Studying marine litter: we are working with various organisations to study the impact of marine litter in the Mediterranean, including Spain’s largest recycling company Ecoembes and the Californian 5 Gyres Institute.

Our research on marine wildlife ensures best practice, always taking into account animal welfare, and therefore uses methodologies that are as non-invasive as possible. For the most part, we let the animals we encounter approach us, and never pursue them or interfere negatively.

Our scientific projects are supported and/or are in collaboration with OceanCare, Ecoembes, Fundación Biodiversidad of the Spanish Ministry of the Environment, Fundación Biodiversidad, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Fundación Reina Sofía and SOCIB.

Our meals and local products

We take great care in selecting the ingredients for the food served on board. Last year, our staff worked hard to create a “sustainable menu” and we source all of our produce from local, organic farming cooperatives. On board the ship, we aim for our meals to be inclusive and nutritious. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, on a low GI diet or a meat eater, we try and cater to all needs.
Sometimes the Toftevaag drops anchor near coastal villages, and short excursions take place to visit local craft shops, or try local cuisine. Visitors don’t get too much time in “civilisation” but when there are opportunities the crew always recommend where to buy food or merchandise.

Sustainability on board

Over the years, Alnitak has kept improving its management of different waste products on board the Toftevaag, to the point where at present, our plastic waste has been cut down 90% over the last couple of years, and most products are bought from local farmers and businesses every Sunday between expeditions.

Of course, all recyclable waste is correctly disposed of whenever in port, along with kilograms of marine litter that we “fish” out of the sea while we are sailing and studying marine wildlife.

In addition to this, we have recently installed a watermaker on-board, this means we can make our own fresh water while out at sea, eliminating the need to buy plastic water bottles on-board. Everyone is invited to bring their own reusable bottle to refill.

Social responsibility

Education is a major part of our organisation’s objectives.
If you want to learn more about the deep blue sea and its biodiversity, this is the week for you.
The curious are rewarded on board the Toftevaag!

Once a week, we stay at port for the afternoon and set up our boat to welcome visitors. This is part of our community outreach program as our ship turns into a “floating exhibition”. Our staff speaks to the public about our adventures at sea and the issues we face with marine litter. Volunteers are welcome to join in!

With these expeditions we want to introduce everyone to the oceans and its many wonders. Besides giving volunteers the opportunity to see endangered or elusive wildlife, such as loggerhead sea turtles and sperm whales, we want to involve and empower citizens to be part of the conservation of our oceans.

Alnitak also runs a local school competition on the islands, collaborating with Mallorcan based conservation group Ondine, and over 25 different public and private schools on the island. Every year, we engage hundreds of students in our conservation work, with some groups of students joining us on board for a life-changing adventure.

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