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Blog Posts by: Agata Mrowiec

The main objective of the EU’s Regulation to end IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing is to prevent, deter and eliminate trade of fisheries products originating from IUU fishing activity and entering every year our EU markets. The IUU Regulation is the most ambitious law to fight IUU fishing globally and this year we celebrate the 10th anniversary since its adoption.

Today is the last day at sea for the crew of the Neptune, since we’re scheduled to dock in Newcastle tonight, putting an end to this expedition, the second by Oceana in the North Sea.

We have a lot of nautical miles along five countries at our back, we’ve dredged the seabed 138 times, taken 799 samples, and done over 80 ROV transects. We’ve made a total of 28 dives which, as a diver, were certainly the best moments for me.

After a few dry days, today was the last dive of the expedition and Scotland has left its mark.

It is the kingdom of the crustaceans: velvet crabs, brown crabs, lobsters...we find a pair of claws guarding the entrance to almost every crack, every hole.  

The interesting thing we came across was a velvet crab in the middle of molting. The way crustaceans grow is fascinating: they shed their shell (exoskeleton) as if it were a glove. Little by little its new shell absorbs water and hardens, growing to almost twice its size.

If I was forced to choose one of the dives that we have had the pleasure of enjoying up until today, I’d pick the Farne Islands, a National Nature Reserve on the border between English and Scottish water. The region teams with lobsters, brown crabs, lion's mane jellyfish, black wrasse, and opulent shoals of pollack, which, together to an immeasurable stretch of red dead man's fingers on the seabed, are guarded by the fascinating presence of the gray seal, the undisputed king of its coasts.

Another time zone, another UTM zone, and the circle closes. Numerous X mark the zones already conquered. The last stronghold is Newcastle: the siege begins.

The multi-beam gives us intel about the terrain. A flat zone, muddy, no rocks or slopes that would indicate something of interest. The scientists confirm the substrate and the type of local life with a few forays with the grab.

The weather makes it prudent to postpone the main observation attack with the ROV. Today it stays on deck, patiently waiting its turn.

 

Today we set out from IJmunden in the Netherlands heading out for British waters and the last leg of the expedition. The forecast predicts a hard crossing and indeed the waves are hitting the ship hard coming sideways from the south. We are passing the time reviewing the details for the last part of the expedition and gazing at the horizon to avoid sea sickness. As a Dane sailing to England in hard weather I cannot help but feel a little akin to the Vikings of old and their voyages across the very same sea that we are now traversing.

Some of our expedition members are leaving today, so we help them unload and say our goodbyes, wishing them good luck, as it is customary to do on the sea.

We took advantage of the delivery of supplies in the afternoon to visit Amsterdam, just a few kilometers away.

What can I say about this beautiful city? Simply that we had a wonderful afternoon and enjoyed its streets, canals and people and left wanting to explore the city more, but we have to get back to the boat since we’re leaving for the UK in a few hours.

We were on our way back to port this afternoon after a regular day of dredging/ROV/CTD/dredging/ROV/dredging when we spotted the enormous corpse of a whale (or most likely Balaenoptera spp.) floating on the surface. It’s ironic that we haven’t seen even one of the giants in the almost 50 days of the expedition and now we see one that’s died. A pity.

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