Expedition marks first time an environmental organization documents underwater biodiversity in the waters of all countries around the Baltic Sea.
Compiled data will be analyzed and used to present proposals for the creation of an effective network of Marine Protected Areas.
Oceana concluded one of its most comprehensive expeditions to date to document species and habitats in the region around the Baltic Sea. The international marine conservation organization completed over one hundred dives with an underwater robot (ROV) and a team of divers in the coastal countries. The objective of the expedition, which covered 7,000 nautical miles in two months, was to collect data on the state of conservation of the Baltic to prepare proposals to improve the network of Marine Protected Areas and their management.
“There is no precedent of any other international expedition that has covered all the Baltic countries and filmed depths ranging from 3 to 450 meters (the deepest area being Landsort Deep, Sweden),” explains Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe and the leader of the expedition. “Oceana's expedition is valuable because it proves that there are areas still rich in biodiversity in this devastated sea; areas that show, how the Baltic Sea can look like if adequately protected. We’ve also seen areas that have been completely destroyed or are heavily polluted, proof of the lack of adequate conservation measures.”
Seventy percent of the dives were completed with an ROV capable of filming marine life in high resolution. The divers took photographs and video footage of the shallow areas, in some cases at temperatures below zero. This graphic documentation was completed with samples of sediments and macroorganisms taken with a Van Veen dredge and a CTD, a device which measures hydrographical data (salinity, temperature, oxygen, chlorophyll).
In the coming months, marine scientists from different countries will study this data, including experts specialized in visually identifying species filmed with the ROV. Oceana will publish proposals with specific conservation measures based on the results of this analysis.
Oceana’s team on board the Hanse Explorer also documented fishing activities in the Baltic, filming dozens of vessels from different countries using a variety of fishing gear. These observations will be combined with the data obtained from official sources and other analyses of the fishing sector in the Baltic Sea countries compiled by the organization.
“One of Oceana’s characteristics is that our campaigns are not only based on analyzing scientific research, facts and figures, but on doing our own field work as well. This expedition will be a tool to promote the creation of an effective network of Marine Protected Areas that includes all types of habitats and species, while also promoting more responsible fisheries management in the Baltic,” states Anne Schroeer, Oceana’s Project Manager in the Baltic.
Oceana recently inaugurated a new office in Copenhagen and is the first environmental organization to use an ROV to film in most of the countries around the Baltic Sea. The material collected during this expedition will be made available to the media, as well as to researchers and government agencies of these countries. A selection of this material is available for viewing at http://baltic.oceana.org, including photographs, video footage and the ship's log starting April 7th, the first day of the expedition.