Cath Robertshaw - Eyesea

In part 1 of our Plastic Free July Q&A series, we speak with Cath Robertshaw, Chief Operating Officer at Eyesea, to find out more about what they as an organisation are doing to combat plastic pollution.


Tell us about your organisation. How was Eyesea born?

Eyesea was born when several of us in the shipping industry asked the questions: What was missing when it came to ocean pollution management; and what could the maritime industry do that no one else could? We found so many people – on shore and at sea – were concerned with the state of our seas and oceans but there was no obvious role for them to play. We also discovered there was very little coordination and even less information and data on the problem…and this was where seafarers and the reach of the shipping industry could have a real impact.

Eyesea’s ambition is to create the world’s largest map and database of maritime pollution. The data will enable us to understand the composition and distribution of pollution and will provide input to action required to fix a problem that is severely impacting marine and, ultimately, human life. Our charts, images, and data will help faster and better clean-up of our oceans and waterways.

How does it work?

It is accessible as a free App you can download onto your mobile device. Once open, the App allows the user to take photographic data of pollution and hazards at sea and on land. (It works everywhere!) Basically, the concept is for ship crews, shore staff, recreational sailors, and the public to take GPS tagged, time stamped pictures through the App of pollution and hazards (plastic, containers, oil spills, nets etc). In a nutshell – crowdsourcing environmental and navigational hazard data and working with communities on behavioural change and clean up actions. The data collected will be integrated into maritime charts and maps and will be used to support ocean, harbour, coastal clean-ups, and scientific research.

Who are the typical users of the Eyesea app?

They’re concerned about pollution, they have a phone and an internet connection. So we don’t really have a typical user, as the App is appealing to so many. It’s a way to take action and make a difference simply by taking a photo. We have everyone from Seafarers and those in the Maritime Industry; to school children, community volunteers, explorers, local authorities to dog walkers and people in their 70s & 80s using the App! It is accessible, free to download, quick and easy to use and most people carry a mobile phone, so have all they require to get going! Eyesea v1 was all about proof of concept. Did people care about what was happening in the seas, oceans, rivers and what was washing up on beaches enough to want to help do something about it and simply take a photo through the App. The answer has been a resounding yes!

Can anybody get involved and if so, how do they do so?

Absolutely – we are all volunteers. The more the merrier and depending on the involvement they are looking for there are opportunities to simply use the App, work within your local community to organise clean ups based on the Eyesea Data, as a company become an Eyesea member, or get personally involved in the running of the organisation as an Eyesea Ambassador. Everyone has something to bring to the table.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I’d say a combination of giving seafarers a chance to be involved for a change, we were so humbled by their desire to do more that we created an At Sea Ambassador role. Winning 2 prestigious awards in our first 10 months has been fantastic too – the SPNL (Shipping Professional Network London) and winning the Green4Sea Clean Shipping Award.

What is the best thing about being involved with Eyesea?

I would definitely say it is meeting, working with, and connecting together the incredible, passionate, inspiring and driven individuals from all over the world and from many different walks of life, that we meet on a daily basis, who willingly give their time, energy and support to our initiative.

What are your plans for the future?

On the tech front, we are now looking at building out the app, integrating machine learning into the image analysis, and looking at how to develop insights and reports into the data collected. It’s been really interesting working out the next steps, what users want and what is going to make the biggest difference.

We’ve also started partnering with and supporting clean up operations as and where we can (in India and Chile for example).

Building up our volunteer/community network will be an important area of focus, but all these things take time and work…thus the ‘everyone is welcome’ above. But one thing we have seen – there are a ton of people out there who want to try and help, but don’t know where or how to start. We know the feeling, come along for the ride.

How can others support Eyesea?

Use and download the App and take images using the App to share what is going on in your local area and the pollution and issues you are facing. Spread the word and get your family, friends and colleagues to download the App. If you want any further information and to be more involved please visit www.eyesea.org or contact us on cath@eyesea.org or graeme@eyesea.org. We even answer our emails.

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