It all started with an Ocean Initiative


It all starts with one step. In 1990, a first thought, followed by a decision to act brought Surfrider Europe to where it is today. The fight for Ocean protection took root in one action and sparked the foundation for 30 years of commitment. This is the sixth part of a series dedicated to celebrating three decades of Surfrider Foundation Europe. Let’s take a look back to the Ocean Initiatives program that began in 1995 with a first gesture.     

Back to 1995: it all started with a waste collection on the beach 

→ One operation: “Spring cleaning” on the French government‘s initiative 

Gilles Asenjo, current President and long-time member of Surfrider Europe looks back at the beginning of the scheme: "In 1995, we learned that the government wanted to do these spring cleanings. We jumped at the opportunity to do on a large scale what we were doing on a smaller scale.” he explains. "We were doing small, opportunistic, one-off clean-ups. We were doing this before 1995 but it was not official, it had no name". 

One objective: Fight against ocean pollution and raise awareness among the population.

Raising young people’s awareness was one of the objectives from the start of the program, as explained by Jacques Beall, long-standing member of Surfrider Europe: “In general, there were lots of young people. And I’m not talking about the school outings that started around the same time. I’m talking about kids who came spontaneously or with their parents. Sometimes, there were children aged 10 or 11”.  

Not only collecting waste but also data 

25 years later, there has been a total of 15,074 beach clean-ups. The fight against marine litter goes on today with this year’s edition of the Ocean Initiatives. For the 2020 season the goal of the program is to continue raising awareness and acting to clean the coastlines and waterways, but with a special focus on citizen science. The data provided by volunteers during waste collections is exponentially valuable in stopping the problem at its source. Every piece of waste logged in Surfrider’s database is used as evidence to urge policy makers to take preventative measures against this pollution. It is thanks to the Ocean Initiatives that Surfrider Europe produces its annual environmental report, which gives a thorough analysis of the state of Europe’s marine litter issue.  

In addition to waste collections, the Ocean Initiatives are data collections. Indeed, the volunteers contribute to the research on pollution and help to influence laws by fuelling lobbying actions. By acting in the field and being the first observers of pollution, the participants provide Surfrider Europe with data about the waste they collect. These data will be qualitative, allowing the identification of waste by material and use, but also quantitative, allowing the determination of the most present waste on which to focus. Thanks to these field data, the members of the association can carry out an investigation and think about the most appropriate measures to reduce this pollution at source. These data will then stand up as evidence capable of influencing public decision-makers in favour of the proposed measures. To act against ocean pollution, this link between the field and lobbying actions is essential and has been the strength of Surfrider Europe for many years.  

The Ocean Initiatives are innovating 

In 2020, the Ocean Initiatives have taken another direction in terms of participatory science. Using the Marine Debris Tracker app (to download on AppStore and Google Play), volunteers can make an inventory of every piece of waste that is collected. Alone or in groups, on a walk or on your way to work, whether you pick up a plastic bottle or 15 cigarette butts, it is now possible to send this information to Surfrider Europe via a mobile application. This is a new way for the association to obtain valuable pollution data, which is essential to strengthen the expertise of the organization and enable them to go even further in their actions to protect the Ocean.  

It only takes one piece of waste, one person and one app to move the fight forward! One second is the time needed to log waste in the Surfrider Europe database. Make your first step with Ocean Initiatives, one clean up can be the catalyst for a lifetime of environmental commitment.  

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The passion for the oceans, the coastline and the pleasures animate everyone who supports Surfrider and guides the organization's action.


Surfrider is rooted in the value of sharing and participation through inclusion and diversity.


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