Its commitment to supporting those who protect the ocean

Through its Perpetual Planet Initiative, Rolex is increasingly committed to protecting the environment. 

Sylvia Earle, Rolex Testimonee and founder of Mission Blue, in front of the DeepSee submersible.

Ever since its origins in 1905, the manufacture with the crown logo has supported pioneers who defy the elements to reach the most inhospitable places on Earth. Over time, the brand has forged close links with the world of exploration, in particular with researchers and organisations working towards solutions to challenges facing the environment. Initially, Rolex focused on individuals who contribute to a better world through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, on understanding climate change via its long-standing partnership with the National Geographic Society and on safeguarding the oceans as part of an established association with Mission Blue. Mission Blue’s goal is to create a global network of Hope Spots to protect marine zones vital to the future of the oceans. In 2019, Rolex’s commitment, to supporting individuals and organizations using science to understand and devise solutions to today’s environmental challenges, was strengthened by the launch of the Perpetual Planet Initiative. “If you can’t protect the Galápagos Islands, what part of the planet can you protect?” says Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue and a Rolex Testimonee in 1982. The question led her to organise an expedition in 2022 to explore the depths of the archipelago, which is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. The Galápagos Islands became one of the first Hope Spots, and for good reason. Sylvia Earle first visited the archipelago in 1966, where she discovered the rich wildlife of this vulnerable zone, which is threatened by the introduction of invasive species and the increasing pressure put on natural resources. With its abundant biodiversity, the archipelago can show us how we can reverse the damage humans have wreaked in the ocean.

Sylvia Earle and Salome Buglass descend in the DeepSee submersible in search of deep sea kelp that may be new to science.

A blueprint for the rest of the world
Although the Galápagos Islands were designated a nature reserve in 1998, more work is needed to reduce the impact of residents, tourists and fishermen and make the area more sustainable. The team carried out an assessment of the marine ecosystem, enabling them to identify the challenges and opportunities for future conservation efforts. Using cutting edge technology, the expedition members uncovered populations of little-studied animal species. During the 2022 expedition aboard the DeepSee submersible, lush kelp forests were identified. The images they shot are a ray of hope for the future. These dense forests play a critical role in the region’s biodiversity. The Mission Blue team is continuing its long-term research into transoceanic movement of marine species by capturing location tags that record the migration of sharks. It is also studying turtle habitats, mapping the foraging grounds of penguin colonies, and measuring levels of microplastic pollution. These actions will help biologists progress in their fields. What lessons can be learned from the various studies? The relationships between ecosystems are complex and marine life has no boundaries. This should motivate governments and organisations to cooperate internationally on the expansion of marine conservation zones. The expedition also underscores the need to create more migration corridors, in addition to those established by the Eastern Tropical Marine Corridor, an initiative launched in 2021 to protect these waters and create a critical migratory route for sharks, turtles, rays and whales. “If we can get it right here, [in the Galápagos], that is a blueprint for getting it right across the planet,” concludes Alex Hearn, chief scientist on the expedition and Hope Spot co-Champion. As well as supporting a variety of actions via the Perpetual Planet Initiative, the manufacture awards grants and scholarships to foster the next generation of explorers, scientists and biologists.

 By Julie de los Rios