The two-month expedition will cover various countries and include work for the LIFE+ INDEMARES European project.
Today, Oceana launched its 2011 Expedition with the departure of the Oceana Ranger research catamaran from the port of Burriana (Spain). The two-month expedition will cover various Mediterranean and Atlantic countries to study seamounts and underwater canyons. Despite their rich biodiversity, these environments remain relatively unexplored due to their depths and the complexity of their geographic structures.
A team of marine scientists, divers and underwater robot (ROV) technicians will join the Ranger's crew. Oceana is the only environmental organization that backs its protection proposals with specific data about deep sea marine habitats collected with the help of an ROV.
This device records video footage in high resolution and can also take photographs. During the 2011 expedition, it will be used to film at 800 meters depth. Oceana has a team of scientists specialized in the visual identification of live organisms. Once the images have been viewed and processed, the information is used to propose the creation of marine protected areas or other conservation measures.
“Seamounts and underwater canyons are rich in biodiversity”, explains Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana Europe and leader of the expedition. “They provide a hard substrate on which a variety of species become attached and constitute habitats and feeding grounds for many organisms. In addition, they generate changes in oceanic currents and upwellings of nutrients that attract species of commercial interest and vulnerable species, like cetaceans. Thus, studying these structures is an important first step in designing adequate protection measures that lead to the conservation of their biodiversity and create a safe environment for the reproduction of species of interest to fisheries.”
Oceana has spent the last six years documenting the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and this year, traveled through the Baltic for the first time. As in previous expeditions, scientists from various institutions will collaborate to exchange knowledge. The Portuguese government and scientists from this country support the project in the Gorringe Bank, a seamount that is rich in biodiversity and remains mostly unexplored. Oceana already documented this seamount in 2005 and will this time work at intermediate depths.
Another seamount that will be documented during the expedition is the Chella Bank, off the coast of Almeria. With support from Spanish Fundación Biodiversidad, Oceana will study this area for the second consecutive year as a partner of the European Commission’s LIFE+ INDEMARES project aimed at documenting marine habitats for subsequent incorporation into the Natura 2000 Network.