The Sea Ranger Service is the brainchild of Dutch environmental conservationist and social entrepreneur Wietse van der Werf. After having worked in environmental conservation for 25 years and being awarded the prestigious Future for Nature award for his innovative conservation efforts, he founded the Sea Ranger Service in 2016 with the 50.000 euro award money.
Inspiration for the Sea Ranger model came from the Civilian Conservation Corps; a public works programme launched by US president Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression in the 1930s. The programme resulted in 3 million unemployed young men being offered work, establishing 800 national parks and planting over 3,2 billion trees in the proces. Van der Werf set out to develop a similar model to strengthen ocean conservation.
The Sea Ranger Service was initially entirely volunteer-run and reliant on donations. A public event in August 2016 at which the mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb and the CEO of the Port of Rotterdam, Allard Castelein, speeched, marked the official start for the organisation. The first Sea Ranger Bootcamp took part in March 2018, with the first Sea Ranger vessel Tooluka, setting sail in October 2018. Since October 2019, the Sea Rangers make use of the vessel Fantastiko for their offshore work, for various governmental and commercial clients. Since April 2019 the Sea Ranger has developed a social franchising programme to scale the model internationally from 2021.