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Program aims to address two major issues in neglected coastal towns: 'A strange paradox'

"It breaks the rules a bit."

"It breaks the rules a bit."

Photo Credit: iStock

A recently launched program is training a new generation of conservationists, and it's providing quality opportunities for young people. 

In January, media organization Positive News reported that the Sea Ranger Service is now underway in the United Kingdom. 

According to the outlet, the program hopes to solve "a strange paradox" in coastal towns, which are filled with people on holiday in the summer but are neglected for the rest of the year.

These towns have high levels of poverty and unemployment.

"For people who haven't gone to university or don't have the right qualification to typically go into conservation careers, it's a real opportunity," said Wietse van der Werf, who founded the Sea Ranger Service in the Netherlands in 2016. 

On its website, the service says it is aiming to help 20,000 young people begin careers in ocean conservation by 2040, as well as restore 1 million hectares of biodiversity — an important quality for healthy ecosystems. 

"You could say that it's kind of a blue-collar job for ocean restoration," Van der Werf told Positive News. "It breaks the rules a bit because so far it's mostly activists and scientists who have been involved in this kind of space."

Applicants in the U.K. must be 18 to 29 years old, and after they are accepted, they are put through a "rigorous bootcamp," during which they learn to sail (a less-polluting mode of transport) and are trained by Royal Navy veterans.  

"We test people's strength and their strength of character and how they act in a group when they're under pressure. Ultimately, when you're going to work in the Celtic Sea for weeks on end, it can be quite rough," Van der Werf explained

In addition to the U.K., the Sea Ranger Service has a presence in the Netherlands and France, and government contracts for ocean conservation are part of its portfolio. According to Positive News, the service is in discussions for similar contracts in its newest operating location. 

It is also working with Project Seagrass, an organization aimed at reversing the decline of seagrasses, which soak up planet-warming carbon, serve as an essential food source for marine life, and protect coastal properties during storms by reducing erosion

"After spending time as an engineer on ships in Antarctica, I knew I had to take action to protect our oceans," Van der Werf said in a press release by his organization. "We are very excited to bring our unique service to U.K. seas and coastal areas."

The release noted that the first bootcamp in the U.K. started on March 1.

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