The International SeaKeepers Society is a non-profit organization that focuses on ocean conservation and research. They work to promote scientific research, raise awareness about marine issues, and support innovative solutions to address challenges facing the world's oceans. One of their key initiatives involves engaging the yachting community in oceanographic research, using private vessels as platforms for scientific data collection.

The Bangladesh chapter of the International SeaKeepers Society was recently launched, with Enayetullah Khan, editor-in-chief of United News of Bangladesh (UNB) and managing director of Cosmos Group, named as its president.

Jay Wade, chairman of International SeaKeepers Society, and Julian Chang, president of SeaKeepers Asia, were in Dhaka to formally make the announcement of the launch of the Bangladesh chapter with Enayetullah Khan as its president on November 8, 2023.

During a one-on-one conversation with UNB, Wade explained how the SeaKeepers Society is essentially harnessing the power of yachts for a good cause, facilitating scientist-led expeditions around the world to gather more knowledge, and making waves in ocean conservation.

"I came into SeaKeepers right around 2003. I had a submersible, a two-person submersible, and we dove all over the world. I was in Monaco, for an event, and that's where I met the SeaKeepers team. I'm a programmer by trade, and I had a software company. We did a lot of work with big data at the time," Wade recalled how he joined the organization.

"The way SeaKeepers operate is: An owner would put a device we call the 'SeaKeeper 1000' on the yacht, and as they travel around the oceans, it would measure roughly 10 different items of the ocean and a handful of items from the air, package those up, collect that data, and then send it back via satellite to a database in the United States. Then from there, we shared it with scientists. So when I heard that and being somebody who loves the ocean, I thought, 'wow, that's a really good idea, and I want to be a part of it.' That's when I signed up to become a SeaKeeper," he said.

"Over the years, we have changed what we do a little bit. We still enable protection and restoration of the world's oceans, and we still collect data. But we've added several other things to that - education, community involvement, citizen science, and Discovery Yachts. As time has gone on, we've been able to grow our fleet and expand our operation," he added.

Talking about in how many countries they operate, the SeaKeepers Society chairman said, "Our main office is in Miami, Florida. We also have an office on the West Coast of the United States, in Newport Beach, California. Those two offices typically handle all of North and South America. Then we have an office in London, which right now handles Europe. There's an office in Singapore for Asia, and one in New Zealand, which operates for South Pacific. We will probably add 6 to 10 more offices around the world to facilitate the science and restoration."

On the significance of the Bay of Bengal and Sundarbans, he said, "Preserving those areas is good for the earth, which ultimately is good for the people. However, you can't preserve anything unless you take the local communities into account. So, one of the things we're very cognizant of is that it's really important to work with local communities for successful preservation. That's the primary reason we're here this week."

"Before this year, we had about 200 yachts involved in the SeaKeepers Society. This year, we've added quite a bit more. We've added roughly 10,000 boats that are part of owners' groups for different brands that we work with. It's going to take several years to get them all on board and get them trained. I'd say in the next three years, we should have 10,000," Wade said about the size of the fleet.

Elaborating on SeaKeepers' role in preserving the oceans, he said, "The premise of our Discovery Yachts is that the most expensive part about marine science is actually getting on the water. The idea was to work with these members who have yachts and are willing to give back. We basically take the yachts and put scientists together with them when they have a research project. The whole idea is to use existing assets that somebody else has already bought. That's how we can offer them for free to the scientists. We don't really tell a yacht owner, you have to go here; we try to find them in those particular areas and say, here's an opportunity."

Briefly talking about some of the research projects facilitated by the SeaKeepers Society, Wade said, "We recently facilitated a study of ocean sunfish. They are one of the largest bony fish... very interesting looking fish. As the temperature of the oceans change, the areas that marine creatures inhabit are also changing dramatically. Understanding the dynamics, for example, impact of invasive species, is crucial. We need to understand these things, so that we can take action before it's too late."

On how Enayetullah Khan came on board the SeaKeepers Society, the chairman of the organization said, "That came through our Singapore chapter. Julian (president of SeaKeepers Asia) and Mr. Khan have known each other for years. Mr. Khan (founder of WildTeam) is extremely keen on conservation, I've learned. It's one of those relationships that just grew."

"As we learn more about Bangladesh, it became obvious that there was an opportunity here. Mr. Khan was kind enough to step up for that, and we're very thankful. We wouldn't be here without him, that's for sure," Wade said.

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