Yamaha Rightwaters

March 28, 2024, Feature, by Joshua Grier

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A commitment to sustainable, healthy marine environments

Based on the continued success Yamaha Rightwaters has enjoyed when teaming up with local governments and community-based organizations, the Yamaha Rightwaters team continues to look for the next opportunity to expand its impact and reach. To learn more, please email Joshua Grier.

Yamaha Rightwaters™ is a national sustainability program that encompasses all of Yamaha Marine’s conservation and water-quality efforts. Reinforcing Yamaha’s longstanding history of natural resource conservation, support of sustainable recreational fishing and water resources, and Angler Code of Ethics, Yamaha Rightwaters is guided by four principles:

  • Working to clean marine environments
  • Managing the threat from invasive species
  • Restoring and creating marine habitat
  • Supporting academic marine research

Yamaha has a long history of natural resource conservation. During the past decade alone, Yamaha has given support to a host of organizations, agencies and institutions, including Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful (KTNRB), the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Florida State University, to name a few. Beyond support of nonprofits and research institutions, Yamaha Rightwaters conducts key work in supporting legislation aligned with the four pillars, including the Save Our Seas Act, S. 3508 on Capitol Hill. The act was signed into law on October 11, 2018.

Yamaha Rightwaters officially launched on World Oceans Day 2019 with support for the Coastal Georgia Clean Up campaign to prevent plastic and other debris from entering the ocean. Now entering its fifth year, Yamaha Rightwaters will announce several new collaborations in 2024 and continue to work closely with its long-term conservation partners. As Yamaha Rightwaters looks forward into the year to come, it’s important to reflect on the foundational successes of Yamaha Rightwaters and how those activities carry the initiative into the future.

Working to Clean Marine Environments

Marine debris can come in many forms, but one of the most prevalent in the marine environment is post-consumer waste. Yamaha Rightwaters partners with numerous organizations to clean waterways and at-risk areas across the country. One of Yamaha Rightwaters’ oldest and most active partners is KTNRB, a nonprofit with a mission to educate and inspire people to take action to create a clean, healthy, beautiful Tennessee River for generations to come.

“The Tennessee River touches four states: Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky. Its tributary rivers flow through North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. According to a study conducted by the University of Tennessee Haslam College of Business, the recreation industry on the lakes of the Tennessee River watershed alone generates $12 billion a year, so it behooves us to take care of the very delicate ecosystem that makes these lakes so desirable to visit, and therefore, drives our local economies,” says Kathleen Gibi, executive director of KTNRB. “With the support of Yamaha Rightwaters, we have the ability to take our efforts to the next level. In fact, their generous donation of two of their nicest outboard motors have powered our boats to take over 4,000 volunteers to remove over 600,000 pounds of trash from the Tennessee River watershed. We as a nonprofit and as a river community would be in a very different place if it wasn’t for Yamaha Rightwaters understanding the importance of protecting our waterways and stepping up to make a difference.”

Working together since 2019, Yamaha Rightwaters and KTNRB engage the communities along the Tennessee River in cleanups. These cleanups take many forms and involve people from each generation. In 2023, KTNRB broke several records for their organization, including most trash removed in one year at 218,719 pounds and most trash removed in three hours at 31,115 pounds.

Last year also drew the largest turnout of volunteers in a single calendar year at 994 individuals. KTNRB’s stellar 2023 included a cleanup with Yamaha pro anglers Ish Monroe, Bobby Lane and Bill Lowen, who worked with 30 volunteers to remove 6,742 pounds of trash in just two-and-a-half hours. The cleanup was held on Fort Loudoun Lake of the Tennessee River just days prior to the Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville, Tennessee, which attracted its largest crowd ever with 164,000 fans, generating an estimated $32.2 million economic impact for the region.

This year, Yamaha Rightwaters is installing one of KTNRB’s electric litter skimmers at one of its facilities on the Tennessee River. The Seabin, which operates 24/7 to filter out up to 3,000 pounds of marine debris a year, also can filter out oils, gasoline, microplastics and tiny Styrofoam balls. Yamaha’s facility is managing one of KTNRB’s 19 Seabins, which comprise the largest network of Seabin devices on any river system in the world!

While removing waste from waterways is incredibly important work, preventing waste from being generated in the first place is a much more efficient strategy. Yamaha Rightwaters looked to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated by its parent company. First conceived in 2021, the Yamaha Plastic Recycling Program started as a way to redirect supply chain plastic waste that was being generated by Yamaha boat builders. The program takes plastics and breaks them down to their base materials for reuse. This process reduces the need to extract and process additional raw materials within the plastic production system. The Yamaha Plastics Recycling Program surpassed 41,651 pounds in December 2023 and continues throughout 2024.

Managing the Threat of Non-Indigenous Species

Since the earliest travelers made their way across the world, plant and animal species hitched rides with them. Many of these species were not able to adapt to their new environments and faded into obscurity. Some not only adapted but thrived. Many of these non-Indigenous species arrived in a place where they had no predators, no real competitors and environmental circumstances that allowed their populations to grow out of control. These invaders quickly can take over and push Indigenous species out, either through direct vacuuming of resources or because they start a chain reaction in the local environment that makes new circumstances unlivable for the original inhabitants. Non-Indigenous species can spread rapidly, particularly in the marine environment, and devastate natural ecosystems.

One of the most prevalent of these non-Indigenous species is the lionfish. A predatory reef fish originally from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish were introduced around the globe through releases from the aquarium trade. These beautiful but voracious predators are particularly destructive in the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, as well as the Caribbean. In these regions, the lionfish has no natural predators, largely due to its intimidating spines that possess venomous tips. This lack of natural predators means their populations grow unchecked. This, combined with an appetite for small fish and crustaceans, can clear an entire reef in no time.

To tackle these invaders, Yamaha Rightwaters partnered with Gulf Coast Lionfish Tournaments to support the Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Tournament. The tournament continues to break records for number of lionfish removed, as well as records for the largest and smallest lionfish harvested. In 2023, the previous record of 19,167 was shattered by an incredible total of 24,699 lionfish removed.

Beyond the coastal waters, non-Indigenous species impact waterways across the nation. Yamaha Rightwaters partnered with the Center for Coastal Conservation Maryland to support The Great Chesapeake Invasives Count, a contest specifically targeting non-Indigenous species, such as northern snakehead, blue catfish and flathead catfish. The contest sought the help of recreational anglers to gather information on the prevalence of these harmful fish across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This information is shared with researchers to help understand the impact of these species on the watershed.

In addition to combating the spread of non-Indigenous species directly, Yamaha Rightwaters’ efforts include connecting experts together to help educate the public and enact change on management practices. Yamaha Rightwaters Pro Anglers Mark Menendez and Ish Monroe participated in the Aquatic Invasive Species Blue Ribbon Commission to facilitate discussion about the negative effects of aquatic non-Indigenous species, including Asian carp, on state fisheries management as well as boating and fishing access. The commission convened leading biologists, environmentalists, policymakers and resource managers to assess existing mitigation efforts and identify more effective eradication solutions.

Additionally, Yamaha Rightwaters supports Wildlife Forever’s “Clean Drain Dry” campaign, a campaign seeking to educate boaters on the importance of properly preparing to move their vessels from the water to prevent the spread of such species. Some non-Indigenous species are so small that they are nearly invisible to the naked eye. Zebra mussels are a small freshwater mussel that have been ravaging U.S. waterways since the late 20th century. Originally Indigenous to fresh waters in Europe and Asia, the zebra mussel likely was introduced to the United States via ballast waters released into the Great Lakes. These mussels spread across the country, causing immense damage to hydroelectric dams and municipal water systems and outcompeting Indigenous invertebrates in the waters they invade.

Restoring and Creating Marine Habitats

Marine habitats are particularly sensitive to changes in water quality, soil disturbances and habitat destruction. The development of human settlements throughout hundreds of years caused measurable changes to the environment, and many species continue to struggle to adapt.

Understanding the importance of key types of marine habitats, Yamaha Rightwaters partnered with Ducks Unlimited on the Ducks Unlimited Gulf Coast Initiative in 2021. Identifying three opportunities to repair previously degraded habitat, Yamaha Rightwaters and Ducks Unlimited worked to restore the areas to their previous state and beyond, providing environments important to ducks and other migratory species, as well as fish, invertebrates, and a wide variety of plants and animals that had otherwise been displaced. Last year saw the completion of the final improvements to the Coastal Marsh Restoration projects. In the coming years, Ducks Unlimited and Yamaha Rightwaters will track the development of the restored areas and document how the improved areas affect the surrounding environment over time. As more vegetation builds on what was introduced, the ability of the restorations to help combat flooding and erosion will increase, ensuring that coastal communities gain protection for decades to come.

Supporting Academic Marine Research

Research organizations and universities worldwide continue to work tirelessly to tackle newly emerging and ever-present environmental challenges. From continental lakes to salty estuaries and the deepest parts of the sea, scientists are searching for answers to modern problems with natural solutions.

Once the largest producer of oysters in the country, the state of Georgia lost much of its oyster population due to overharvesting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Oyster reefs are a key environmental feature for young fish; the natural crevices and caves that form as the reef grows provide cover from larger predators during their vulnerable early stages of development. The absence of oyster reefs led to accelerated coastal erosion and a reduction in commercial fishing opportunities across the state.

In collaboration with John Carroll, Ph.D., of Georgia Southern University, Yamaha Rightwaters supports an oyster reef restoration project on the shores of St. Catherines Sound in coastal Georgia. Beyond preventing erosion, serving as habitat and bringing back a key part of Georgia’s fisheries, Carroll is investigating another potential benefit of coastal oyster reefs: carbon sequestration.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Yamaha Rightwaters supported a joint effort between the Coastal Conservation Association and Texas A&M Harte Institute in St. Charles Bay that also investigated the potential of oyster reefs to sequester carbon dioxide. The growth and establishment of oysters is different in the Gulf of Mexico compared to other places, usually experiencing much smaller variations than its coastal counterparts. By investigating abilities of oysters in varying habitats, Yamaha Rightwaters is working to understand how large-scale restoration efforts might be optimized across varying environments.

As oyster reefs grow and mature, they trap sediment that contains captured carbon in the form of vegetation behind the expanding shoreline. The Center for Coastal Conservation/Harte Institute study seeks to prove that these carbon deposits remain trapped behind the reefs and do not have the opportunity to be broken down and released back into the atmosphere. If this study is successful, it could open up opportunities all along the coast for investment into carbon capture that also brings back thousands of miles of oyster reefs and the environmental benefits like prevention of soil erosion that they provide.

Further out to sea, Yamaha Rightwaters supports OCEARCH, a nonprofit dedicated to researching the ocean’s most misunderstood predators, sharks. That research comes in many forms, from taking blood and stomach samples to fitting the sharks with tracking tags, allowing the researchers to monitor the shark’s movements across the globe. Yamaha Rightwaters supports OCEARCH by powering the research vessels that pursue these mysterious keystone species of the ocean. In recognition of this support, in 2023, Yamaha Rightwaters was honored to name a shark that was tagged during a research outing off the coast of the Southeastern United States. Yamaha Rightwaters selected the name “Umi,” which translates to “sea” or “ocean” in Japanese.

What Comes Next?

Moving forward, Yamaha Rightwaters continues its mission to protect and improve the environment and natural resources that make outdoor recreation possible. To accomplish this goal, Yamaha Rightwaters will strengthen existing partnerships and empower new ones specifically focused on carbon sequestration. Yamaha also maintains a commitment to minimize the impact that the company has in its products and manufacturing practices, including a commitment to achieve carbon neutrality in its manufacturing facilities by 2035 and its products by 2050. This work honors the four pillars of its mission and supports Yamaha’s three-part, strategic approach to creating and maintaining sustainable marine environments: natural resources conservation, sustainable recreational fishing and protection of water resources.

Joshua Grier is the Sustainability Program Manager at Yamaha U.S. Marine Business Unit.