Lessons from the sea


In the lead up to World Ocean Day today, G caught up with Jesse Martin, the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, to discuss why he’s supporting the push for protection of the Coral Sea.


“You really can’t fight every battle. Pick the big ones that mean something to you,” says Jesse Martin.


The proposed Coral Sea Marine Park could become the world’s largest marine park at around one million square kilometres.

Credit: AMCS

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At 18, Jesse Martin became the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, non-stop and unassisted on his 34-foot yacht Lionheart. Having so much experience within marine environments, Martin understands their beauty and importance, and he is now an ambassador for the Protect our Coral Sea campaign.

Australia's Coral Sea is less than one per cent fully protected. Protect our Coral Sea is a joint campaign supported by ten regional, national and international conservation organisations, calling on the federal government to establish a very large, world-class, highly protected marine park to provide a safe haven for marine life and recognise its historic significance. Without a high level of protection, the beauty and biodiversity of the Coral Sea will diminish over time. If the whole of the Coral Sea was fully protected, the new Coral Sea Marine Park would be the world’s largest – at about one million square kilometres.

G caught up with Jesse Martin to ask him about his environmental ethos, what it is that inspires him, and why he’s supporting the push for protection of the Coral Sea as part of a joint initiative supported by ten regional, national and international conservation organisations, including the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Marine Conservation Society among others.

What’s one thing that inspires you within the environmental movement today?

“Anything to do with the water is important to me… The reason I like boating is because it’s all encompassing. It’s lifestyle, it’s got to do with wind, you can live off solar power and wind generators on a boat. So when I say water elements, as a boater, that encompasses a lot of alternative energy as well as saving species, remote places, that kind of thing.

How did you first get into boating and a love of the sea?

“I first went to sail with my brother and dad when I was 14, so it was a family thing. We went on from Cairns to Cape York, sailing along the coast, and camping on the beach at night. But that was on quite a small boat. And it led on from there – that led onto wanting to go around the world and see places. It’s one of those things that the more you do, the more you realise that you can do more, go further, see more.”

What prompted you to want to become an ambassador for the Coral Sea campaign?

“What I love about this cause is that it kind of seems like it’s a no-brainer, and it seems like it’s so possible. So that’s why I’m like ‘C’mon lets just cement that and make it happen’. It does seem like a lot of environmental movements take a lot of time and they’re all important in my opinion. But we’ve got one here that’s really quite close to happening and it would be a world first, and so in my eyes this is a priority for me to be working on. It would be such a great thing, such a great milestone and we’re really quite close to making it happen.”

Why do you support protection for the Coral Sea? What is it that makes this place more important to protect than any other place?

“A few reasons – I’ve sailed through it twice, I know the area, when I did my first trip with my dad and my brother it was along the queensland coast, so it’s a place that is close to my heart. And it’s a huge area – it’s around a million square kilometres that would be protected which would be a world first. In Australia we are the lucky country and we have the ability to protect these places and still survive as an economy. It’s a great way for us as a country to set a good example for nations overseas.”

Why should people get behind the campaign to protect the Coral Sea?

“Protect Our Coral Sea’s marine park is so close to being done already, and if we can just get this thing through I think it would be a great achievement.”

“An interesting point with this campaign is that there’s not really much opposition to this thing. The commercial fishermen are happy for this to go ahead because the government buys out their licences. And also, it doesn’t impact recreational fishing much because the Coral Sea is 200 km or so off the coast, so the average person doesn’t get in their dingy and go that far out. So really there are no losers in this. And it’s even a plus for eco-tourism.”

What do you think is one of the biggest environmental problems we face in Australia today? What should we be doing about it?

“I think it’s really quite tricky to think just as a nation, because in a globalised world, what we don’t do here someone else does somewhere else. So I think the trick is to take a global point of view and know what we can do in Australia that sets examples that doesn’t just benefit us immediately as Australians, but also helps globally. And that’s why I love this campaign, because it’s in the Coral Sea, which is so close to us, but also sets an example globally.”

“I think we always just have to take the big picture into account and fight battles and protect particular species but if the trade-off is that we’re still selling uranium to Japan and vents go wrong over there, then what’s the point? I think we need to take a global view.”

You’ve proved to be a great ambassador for young people. Is there any important message that you’d send to young people today to do something good for the environment?

“You really can’t fight every battle. Pick the big ones that mean something to you. Also, things do change but they change slowly, so it’s important not to loose interest and faith, because the green movement – or any movement or any fad – is big and new in the moment. But stick at it, because the longer that people stick at something, the more opportunity there is for change. Remember that it’s not going to be instant.”

To join 40,000 others in the online petition to support the campaign, visit www.protectourcoralsea.org.au