My name is Ghazi BITAR, oceanographic studies professor at the Lebanese University. I represent RAC/SPA of the UNEP on board the "Sea Patron" vessel as part of the "Deep Sea Lebanon" project. The main objective of that project is first to study biodiversity and to map deep habitats in particular the canyons on the Lebanese side and second to help Lebanon to implement its national Protected Marine Areas strategy. This project supported by the RAC/SPA and the IUCN is implemented by OCEANA, the International Organisation for Conservation of the Marine Environment. In fact, OCEANA's projects are led and coordinated by Dr. Ricardo AGUILAR and his team, including Ms. Pilar MARIN who is well known in the field for everything related to Protected Marine Areas. Our colleague Ricardo has already lead many oceanographic campaigns in the global ocean and in particular in the Mediterranean Sea and is well known in the field of marine environment conservation. It must be noted that the majority of results from this mandate is new for Lebanon because it is included in the study of environments not accessible via scuba diving. Deep, obscure habitat had not been studied before especially since in this mission the ROV is used.
The work which OCEANA and in particular with Ricardo and his competent team is very interesting, instructive and very effective. Personally, thanks to this mission, I accumulated a lot of information and data on the deep environment on the Lebanese side. Now, it must be said that throughout the mission the atmosphere with Ricardo's team and the "Sea Patron" crew and captain was very pleasant and we worked in very good conditions. I hope that our cooperation continues in the future.
Of course, I have not forgotten the nice "Sea Patron" kitchen chef who supported us with his excellent culinary and food logistics.
Finally, on behalf of Lebanon and RAC/SPA, I would like to thank all those who contributed to the success of this mission.