Royal Caribbean Ocean & Wildlife Conservation

The ocean, its varied shades of blue, turbulent and calm currents and infinite mysteries are mesmerizing. As sailors we can’t deny it. They are our way of life, and respecting them is not a choice, but a responsibility – a responsibility we take very seriously.


How DNA is Helping the Hawksbill

A new DNA extraction test will offer scientists and conservationists vital information to track – and ultimately help end – the illegal trade of hawksbill turtle products. This is a significant breakthrough led by WWF Australia, Royal Caribbean, and the NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), in California, USA.

A Hawksbill turtle gets released after the new DNA extraction test to track and eventually help end the illegal trade of its shell.

Hunted for their beautiful shells, the species is now listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with the scientific community estimating as few as 6,700 breeding females remain in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

This novel DNA test and database is a significant achievement in our partnership with WWF, giving authorities and researchers vital information to protect the species. Our vision is for a future in which hawksbill turtles return to their former numbers to perform their crucial role in maintaining coral reefs.

Hawksbill turtles from different regions, or even some countries, are genetically distinct, and their DNA signatures can be used to identify different nesting areas. The new test will allow scientists and marine conservationists to identify where tortoiseshell products have come from and pinpoint hawksbill turtle populations to allow for targeted conservation efforts.

The next step in the project is to build a more comprehensive genetic database of all hawksbill rookeries across Asia Pacific to help identify what populations there are in different locations, and to protect those most at risk from poaching. This kind of detail is limited or currently unavailable and it will provide vital information for wildlife managers and law enforcement to act on.

WWF-Australia announced the DNA test breakthrough at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP18) in Geneva.

75% of Hawksbill Turtle Population Lost
Hawksbill Turtle Protection Status

Encouraging Sustainable Tourism

Donsol, Philippines, is where our partnership with WWF was launched and it remains a special part of our partnership. We continue to support the region through conservation projects, education and helping the municipal government expand its sustainable tourism offerings.

Through our support, WWF trained teachers and student leaders in an environmental education school curriculum in Donsol’s 47 public elementary schools and is now expanding that program.

Donsol, a small municipality in the Philippines, is home to one of the wonders of the ocean world – whale sharks. This past year, WWF worked to improve the water quality in Donsol, focusing on the health of the rivers that feeds into the ocean. The two major rivers, the Donsol and Ogod, are essential breeding grounds for plankton, a major food source for the whale shark.

In partnership with the local government, WWF developed plans to mitigate the environmental impacts on the river. WWF is also rehabilitating the rivers by planting mangrove and bamboo. Over 30 volunteers helped plant 2,500 bamboo and 14,600 mangrove plants.

Tourists are increasingly flocking to Donsol to see the whale sharks up close. WWF has recorded an increase of whale sharks off the coast of Donsol, with a total of 87 whale shark sightings this past year. While tourism brings much needed revenue to Donsol, it must be done in a way that protects the whale sharks for generations to come. WWF is working with the local government to develop the Donsol Tourism Information System to train local government workers about protecting the whale sharks. WWF also provided input into the amendment of the local tourism ordinance to include ecotourism activities.

Better Tags to Track Polar Bears

The rapidly warming Arctic Ocean is losing sea ice at record speed and that’s having a significant impact on where polar bears can find habitat. Over the holiday season, we have engaged our guests to fundraise for these iconic creatures. Those funds have been used by WWF, engineers and innovators to create a better tag for tracking polar bears.

Right now, scientists use collars to track and understand polar bear movement. The collars are equipped with technology to send location information up to satellites and back down to computers here on Earth. The problem is the collars have a high failure rate and they are culturally offensive to local communities.

After workshopping ideas and designing a plan forward, a small team has worked on a miniaturized ear tag to replace the collar. Staff from WWF and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spent time studying a polar bear named Lyutyik up close in the Alaska Zoo and have since incorporated information from the experience into the design process. The tag will then be tested on a polar bear in captivity with a goal to deploy them in the wild by 2020.

Coral Reef Restoration

Located just off the coast of Virginia Key in Miami, the “Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Reef” is an active site for coral reef research, restoration, and citizen science. RCL began partnering with University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science “Rescue a Reef” program in 2017, following Hurricane Irma’s destruction of many underwater environments in the area. 

Last year, employees at RCL’s headquarters in Miami worked together to build coral “tree,” structures made of PVC pipe on which small coral pieces are affixed, giving them greater chances to survive and grow new colonies of their own. Later during dive expeditions employees sourced corals from the “trees” and planted them onto our reef. Groups of RCL scuba divers and snorkelers continue to volunteer their time on follow-up expeditions, to check on these trees and continue the development of our reef — to date they’ve outplanted staghorn 1,010 corals.

A Partnership for the Oceans

In 2016, WWF and Royal Caribbean joined forces to help ensure the long-term health of the oceans by setting – and achieving – ambitious sustainability targets to lessen the company’s environmental impact, raise awareness for ocean conservation with our guests and crew, and support ocean conservation projects around the world.

Our partnership stems from the recognition that the environmental challenges that we face – particularly for a borderless ecosystem like the oceans – cannot be tackled alone. We all have a role to play in conserving and safeguarding this critical ecosystem and we each bring different strengths and perspectives to this partnership.

We have supported WWF initiatives on wildlife trafficking, commitment to deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement through the We Are Still In coalition and signed on to the Cascading Materials Vision for a more sustainable supply chain.

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