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Blog Posts by: Ricardo Aguilar

Time to summarize and to start thinking about the report we must prepare about all the findings we’ve made during the expedition.

Today, we had an event in Vaasa with journalists, scientists and representatives from governmental agencies and fisher’s associations. It was good to have the chance to exchange information and feelings with people that are also interested about this part of the Baltic Sea.

Now, we start the process of putting all the information we’ve gathered into motion so that we may promote a transboundary marine protected area in this unique ecosystem.

In this part of the Baltic, you notice the connection between the land and sea, fresh and salt water, best. A brackish environment, the most common species here are those typically found in lakes and rivers, albeit for a few bivalves, saltwater fish and marine algae.

Foxes and minks lurk about the rocky coast and the plants seem to crawl onto the land. The low horizon makes it difficult to discern where the water ends and land begins or telling apart a lake from the sea.

Today we stayed at port (Holmsund), on one hand, this was due to bureaucratic problems with the boat and, on the other hand, because we were running out of water. So, we took advantage of the day to fill the tanks, fix several things, stock up on food, etc.

This “resting” time also allowed us to finish identifying the organisms from our samples and photos (more algae, snails, fish, crustaceans, etc.), do some homework and answer e-mails.

During the night and early in the morning, there were clouds of mosquitos, moths, flies, etc. all around us. Iit made me realize how important insects are for ecosystem.

Normally we do not pay much attention to small animals: insects, worms, leeches, amphipods… they are sometimes thousands of these individuals in any small area. Obviously, they are there for a reason. . They are food. They control insect overpopulation and the structure of the sediments, and they also create microhabitats.

Mud covers the immense majority of ocean seabed, with even many rocky areas often covered by a thin layer of mud. They can sometimes be boring to look at, since the majority of life is taking place out of sight, underground. Worms, urchins, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, mollusks, crustaceans, fish…a rich underground life. There are other species that have adapted to these environments and developed branched forms that cling to the substrate.

We left port about 10 and sailed to the Jounieh canyon to test the equipment. We were checking and solving the typical problems we encounter on the first few days with the CTD, ROV, winch, etc. So we have nothing particularly interesting to report.

While we were preparing the equipment, a group of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) came close to the boat. They had a baby dolphin with them.

Then we tried out the ROV over a muddy seabed at the head of the canyon, at a depth of about 260 metres.

Today we met with everyone involved in the expedition: the Lebanese government, the Navy Hydrographic Service, the CNRS, the IUCN and the RAC/SPA.

We are agreeing the programme, protocols and other relevant arrangements before beginning the expedition. Meanwhile, our ship’s agent is handling the paperwork so we can start to operate at sea as soon as possible.

We are in the middle of the North Sea, where the waters of five countries –the United Kingdom, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Norway– meet. The day began with an unpredictable sea, that is, a sea that’s on the verge of not letting us work. We’ve done some dredging as we wait for conditions to improve a bit, as the forecasts predicted. Sandy/muddy area with various species of molluscs. We finally took the ROV out and it seems that the bottom is full of starfish and hermit crabs, like the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James). It would have been better if it had been yesterday.

We’re taking samples today in the Norfolk sandbanks and surrounding areas. We’re in area between two zones that are protected zones but lack an efficient management plan, and a passageway that is used by trawlers. It goes without saying that the area has dozens of offshore oil-rigs.

The tides are strong. And in these sea beds, poutings and flat fish live and move around freely and small sand eels bury themselves in the sand.

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