Every year, our research vessel, the Oceana Ranger, explores new areas of the ocean and collects scientific data – and incredible photos! -- to help protect vulnerable marine habitats.
This week, our colleagues in Europe presented their findings to an environmental rule-making body in the Northeast Atlantic, and we’re hopeful that it will lead to exciting new ocean protection measures.
Europe’s Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) offers guidelines about threatened species and habitat types that should be protected. However, these principles rely on old and incomplete data, so countries have had trouble using them effectively.
Although Norway, the UK, and Germany have already taken steps to explore and protect their seafloor communities, Spain and Portugal have had much less information about their oceans and so have been less active in preserving it.
But thanks to our expedition findings, that might change. Oceana presented OSPAR with findings about coral gardens, deep sea sponges and seapen communities from our expeditions in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. In total, our scientists presented 28 previously unknown areas that have these types of habitats.
These habitats are home to some of the most diverse and unique communities in the oceans. Creating marine protected areas to preserve them can go a long way in keeping the oceans and everything that lives in them healthy.
Here’s hoping that today’s presentation will pave the way for both continued scientific study and additional protections.
Fantastic news from the international negotiations we told you about last week: the talks concluded on Friday with conservation measures that will protect more than 16.1 million square miles of seafloor habitat in the North Pacific Ocean from bottom trawling and other bottom contact gear.
Delegates also concluded negotiations on a new treaty. Once signed and ratified, it will establish a new fishery management organization charged with sustainably managing North Pacific Ocean fisheries.
Bottom trawls are massive weighted nets that drag along the ocean floor, destroying anything in their path, including ancient coral forests, gardens of anemones and entire fields of sea sponges. Today’s bottom trawlers go deeper and farther from shore than they could ever reach before, into high seas areas populated with slow-growing deep-sea fish and corals that are especially slow to recover from trawling. Nets can be 200 feet wide and 40 feet high, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds and reaching depths of more than 5,000 feet.
We've been working in Chile to protect its incredible coastline from a proposed coal-fired power plant that would threaten Punta de Choros, home to amazing wildlife including endangered blue whales and Humboldt penguins. In recent days, grassroots opposition to the power plant grew after the power plant received its environmental permit, with peaceful demonstrations that were ultimately dispersed with tear gas and water cannons as well as a massive outpouring of criticism from Chileans online.
So it is with great satisfaction that I report that Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has announced he has persuaded Suez Energy not to build its power plant near Punta de Choros. In addition, he asked his cabinet to review all the industrial projects that produce environmental damage being considered in the country to see whether they could affect protected areas.
This is an incredible victory for Chileans, 94 percent of whom opposed the power plant in a recent poll. Against the odds, we changed a formal government decision, and the amazing marine ecosystem of Punta de Choros will remain protected.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
National Geographic has captured incredible footage of a sea lion battling a large octopus in Australia (spoiler alert: the sea lion prevails.) To get the footage, the hungry sea lion was equipped with a GPS tracker and a crittercam.
The project, led by South Australian Research and Development Institute, is helping researchers learn more about where and how sea lions feed, which will ultimately help in protecting key habitat for the creatures. Plus, it's just a really cool video. Check it out: