On-board Diary: Interview to Patricia Lastra

Author: Concha Martínez
Date: August 8, 2008



Taking advantage of a few moments of sailing time, Patricia Lastra, one of Oceana's scientists aboard the Marviva Med, has agreed to a short interview in which she tells us about her work.

Patricia is a thirty year old Sevillian who has been working with Oceana's crew since may. Here, she is one of the organization's scientific experts and she participates in planning and conducting larval sampling in the main red tuna spawning grounds to evaluate the protection of these essential habitats.

She has a PhD in marine biology, and specializes in marine mammal ecology and biology. Patricia has experience and she has participated in several projects involving researching, planning and conducting campaigns to study marine mammal populations, to research their distribution, estimate the population size, behavior and the habitat's use in areas that are candidates for protection and conservation within the scope of Marine Protected Areas. To do this, she does photo-identification, image processing, acoustic recording methods and statistical analyses of the data.

Question: Tell us briefly what your campaign consists of and what results you seek.

Answer: One of the objectives proposed for this Oceana-MarViva 2008 campaign in the Mediterranean is to identify essential sensitive habitats for red tuna spawning and for other large pelagic fish. It also includes furthering conservation and protection of these species through the creation of a Marine Protected Area network. In these areas, industrial fishing will be prohibited, mainly during the crucial months for this specie's reproduction. To evaluate these essential habitats, it is necessary to take larval samples in spawning areas for this specie.

We hope that with the results of these samples, we will be able to confirm the presence of tunid larvae in the areas being studied in order to identify habitats and foster the protection of these spawning grounds. We hope that the data collected in this campaign contributes toward a better understanding of the importance of protecting primary stages of life for sustainable management of the stock. We also hope to make the necessary arrangements so that these essential habitats are recognized as such by the EU or incorporated into the community fishing regulations that regulate tunid fishing (tuna and related species).

Q. How does the work on the Marviva Med help your campaign?

The Marviva Med is a spacious vessel and it represents an excellent work platform to carry out this type of larval sampling where a great deal of space is needed to handle the icthyoplankton net with an approximate length of 5 m. This roomy space also translates into a spacious workroom where we can later analyze the samples collected with the magnifying glass. It also has good lighting which makes it possible to perform larval sampling at night.

Q. What part of your work do you enjoy the most?

The fieldwork during the campaigns, being near the sea and the creatures that inhabit it, observing them and being a witness to how enormous and at the same time fragile they can be if our destructive behavior continues.

We hope that with the results of these samples, we will be able to confirm the presence of tunid larvae in the areas being studied in order to identify habitats and foster the protection of these spawning grounds. We hope that the data collected in this campaign contributes toward a better understanding of the importance of protecting primary stages of life for sustainable management of the stock. We also hope to make the necessary arrangements so that these essential habitats are recognized as such by the EU or incorporated into the community fishing regulations that regulate tunid fishing (tuna and related species).

Q. Do you believe that the general public can help in your campaign? How?

I personally think that Oceana, with its campaigns is the one helps the public a great deal. It is an arduous task of awareness, education and communication on many levels with the work being done. I think we all have a responsibility and a commitment toward conserving this blue planet on which we live, and the task begins with oneself. I think that the only way that we as the public, which includes all of us, have of helping is being aware that respecting, taking care of and protecting the world in which and from which we live is by respecting ourselves and ensuring that future generations will be more aware of this value.

Q. If you could make a wish for your campaign, what would it be?

It's difficult to make a wish when there are many wishes, challenges, goals..., that you hope for when you have the chance to participate in a campaign like this one. Fortunately, some of these challenges have come true and that satisfies me a great deal. I'd like to stress that it has been fantastic to have everyone's support from the beginning. We've all given it our all so that the sampling would be successful, and we have achieved it. This type of sampling requires excellent coordination and teamwork, and I must say that it has been a success.

My wish: to work on translating the good sentiments into efficient actions (and resignations) and also continue believing that there are still many of us who have a commitment to life in all of its manifestations. Conservation does not come exclusively from the heart, it comes from the head too.