NEWCASTLE ocean yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen came home from the sea this year determined to tell the world about the horror that he saw beyond the horizon.
Having just finished the Melbourne to Osaka yacht race – retracing the same course he’d taken in the same race 10 years before – Mr Macfadyen was stunned to find an ocean profoundly changed.
Where a decade ago he easily caught a fish a day between Brisbane and Japan, this time he caught just two.
The fish were absent, and so were the birds he’d previously been accustomed to having around his boat.
He reported witnessing an incident of shockingly wasteful industrial-scale fishing on a mid-ocean reef, and he described being deeply disturbed by a long, deep plume of garbage in the North Pacific, between Japan and the US – much of it left in the sea by the catastrophic Japanese tsunami.
‘‘Having seen this, I couldn’t keep silent about it,’’ Mr Macfadyen said.
‘‘I wanted to get the word out to everybody I could reach, to tell them, the ocean is broken. We have to do something and we can’t waste any more time.’’
His story appeared in last Saturday’s Newcastle HeraldWeekender magazine, and on the Herald's website. From that Australian platform, the story catapulted, via social media, into the global limelight.
The story smashed Fairfax Regional Media records, registering 620,000 unique readers on the Herald site by Tuesday afternoon.
It appeared on the front page of Reddit on Monday, was trending in Melbourne early Monday afternoon, and was re-tweeted by, among others, Jack Dorsey, the founder and chief executive of Twitter, Jane Caro and Penny Wong. According to Google Analytics, 44.57per cent of readers came from the US, 13.31per cent were from Australia, 10.92per cent from Canada and 8.64per cent from the UK.
Mr Macfadyen is now hoping he can harness international public concern about the state of the oceans to help stop the damage.
‘‘I’ve been put in touch with a lot of people from all over the world who want to help, so it’s a matter of working out the next step,’’ he said.