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ACUA Ocean partners with The Beneath the Waves Group and Ocean Ledger to monitor and protect over 9,000,000 hectares of seagrass in the Bahamas

12th May 2024, London: ACUA Ocean has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with leading ocean innovators The Beneath the Waves Group and Ocean Ledger to explore how earth observation and autonomous systems can help scale monitoring and protection operations in the Bahamas Blue Carbon Project Areas.

The Beneath the Waves Group, who have been working with the Bahamian Government since 2021 to deliver the world’s largest blue carbon program, have deep expertise in using cutting-edge technologies such as remote sensing, aerial imaging and environmental DNA as part of their conservation programs. ACUA Ocean’s partnership with The Beneath the Waves Group looks to build on the seagrass mapping work that they have undertaken previously in The Bahamas by enabling them to collect in-situ data for the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of seagrass carbon sequestration.

Photo credit: Beneath the Waves

To enable The Beneath the Waves Group to scale their MRV operations most effectively, ACUA Ocean has also initiated a partnership with Ocean Ledger, a former tech transfer project spun out of the German Space Agency, to time- and cost-effectively scale up the collection of data by ACUA’s Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs). 

Ocean Ledger successfully mapped and quantified the value of Bahamian seagrass with record-breaking accuracy in 2021. This analysis will be used to target areas for in situ-data collection based on spatial uncertainties. To collect this in-situ data, ACUA Ocean will initially run single-USV pilot deployments within specific areas of interest where high uncertainties exist, which will then be scaled to simultaneous, multi-USV deployments across the Blue Carbon Project Areas for enhanced MRV capabilities. The in-situ data collected by ACUA’s USVs will then be fed into Ocean Ledger's geospatial accounting tech stack, using machine learning algorithms and satellite analytics to develop a multi-decadal dynamic baseline for blue carbon MRV by harmonising the remote sensing and ground truth data. This process can be optimised overtime to improve the accuracy of the remote sensing outputs, therefore increasing the scalability of the entire MRV operation. 

An estimated $8-11bn is needed annually to increase the protection of coastal habitats to reach the 2030 global commitment of 30%. While land-based nature markets have taken off, investment into coastal nature markets remains blocked by a lack of investable projects, particularly for seagrass, which are an overlooked but critical ecosystem that can sequester up to 40x more carbon than rainforests and provide a range of vital ecosystem benefits to local industries and communities. However, current blue carbon projects are too expensive and high risk to attract private capital, and lack the economies of scale to justify meaningful upfront funding. If the technical solutions for monitoring and data collection don't improve, we won’t achieve the level of investment for coastal restoration required.  

Through this partnership, ACUA Ocean, The Beneath the Waves Group and Ocean Ledger will solve these critical technical bottlenecks through assessing project risk, reducing the time and cost of implementation, and ensuring standardised, objective MRV for quality control. Ecosystem extent, health and value will be assessed holistically to ensure high quality conservation and restoration activity and premium credits or certificates.

As part of this partnership, ACUA Ocean will also work with The Beneath the Waves Group to explore how to leverage autonomous systems for the surveillance and enforcement of the Bahamas Blue Carbon Project Areas on an ongoing basis. Surveillance and enforcement are often overlooked aspects of the successful operationalisation of blue carbon programs, but represent critical components in ensuring the natural capital value encompassed by them is protected and secured.

The Bahamian Government estimates that their blue carbon program could initially generate up to $300m in revenue for the island nation, with a portion of the revenues being channelled back into ongoing adaptation and mitigation efforts. To achieve these highly ambitious goals, it is crucial that the mapping, monitoring and surveillance activities are done in the most scalable way possible. 

Neil Tinmouth, Cofounder & CEO of ACUA Ocean commented: “We are really excited to be collaborating with Beneath the Waves and Ocean Ledger, bringing together their research and experience with our scalable, uncrewed data collection services. Combining conservation enforcement with MVR will be critical for decreasing costs and increasing the scalability of the blue carbon and marine biodiversity markets.”

Wells Howe, Principal at The Beneath the Waves Group, added: “as a strategic global asset, blue carbon ecosystems are among the most productive natural climate solutions on earth at fighting climate change and are forecasted to generate substantially more financial value when protected through innovative partnerships than perpetuating their use under business-as-usual scenarios.”

Paige Roepers, Cofounder & CEO of Ocean Ledger said: “Building a robust, replicable model for large-scale conservation, that amplifies local knowledge and efforts, is contingent upon radical collaboration and a willingness to do things differently.”

Rupert Hayward, Founder & President of Blue Action, who helped facilitate the partnership, had the following to say: “Blue Action is delighted to see that the cutting-edge technologies being developed through our Blue Action Investment Platform by ACUA Ocean and Ocean Ledger are being utilised in the Bahamas to help unlock the true blue carbon value in its seagrass meadows.”


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