Wietse is a Dutch social entrepreneur, conservationist author and vegan, most recognised for his work combining ocean conservation and social entrepreneurship. He is the founder of the Sea Ranger Service and was named European Young Leader in 2020.
From the age of 15, Wietse became involved in environmental activism and later moved to the UK where he worked with groups such as the Climate Camp and The Mischief Makers, the art-activist collective which he co-founded in 2004. He served with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on multiple Antarctica expeditions before founding the marine conservation NGO The Black Fish, as part of which he led numerous investigations into illegal fishing around the Mediterranean Sea. Van der Werf has since distanced himself from direct activism, instead pursuing a social entrepreneurial approach to ocean conservation.
Wietse founded the Sea Ranger Service in 2016 as a social enterprise which trains young people as Sea Rangers and deploys special sailing work ships to carry out marine management tasks in direct cooperation with governments. Sea Ranger tasks include maritime surveillance, wildlife monitoring, underwater photography and surveys, sea water sampling, restoration of underwater seagrass meadows and general offshore inspections tasks but excludes any enforcement activities. The current operational area for the Sea Rangers is the North Sea yet the Sea Ranger Service has announced plans to scale its approach internationally, through a social franchising model which it has developed in collaboration with PwC and IKEA. In May 2019 the Sea Ranger Service was awarded the Medal of Honour by the Enkhuizen Maritime College and the Dutch Commercial Sailing Board for operating the first commercial sailing vessel in the offshore industry.
Wietse is the author of four books The Next Eco-Warriors (2011), co-author, Conari Press; Bluefin Bonanza (2012), Big Green Factory; No More Endlings (2015), Motivational Press and We Are Here (2020), in production.