Oceana and National Geographic are currently aboard a Chilean naval ship, the Comandante Toro, on a scientific expedition in the waters of the newly created marine park around Sala y Gomez island (FYI, an alternate spelling is Salas y Gomez). Author Alex Muñoz Wilson is the Executive Director of Oceana Chile. This blog dispatch was originally posted at National Geographic.
We woke up this morning to a startling sight: Overnight, a small commercial fishing boat from Easter Island entered the protected waters of the marine park and dropped its lines within site of the Comandante Toro.
The fishing boat's captain was either brazen (why make an illegal fishing foray in plain sight of a large naval patrol ship?) or unaware of the existence of the new park (which would also be surprising, given the substantial publicity in Chile--particularly on Easter Island--surrounding the park's creation).
The Navy captain dispatched a team in one of the Toro's fast boats to interdict the fishing vessel, inspect it, and put a stop to the illegal fishing. According to the captain's report, this was a small commercial fishing boat with tuna in the boat's hold.
The fishing boat's owner said he was aware of the existence of the marine park, and that he was still planning to fish in this area. The navy showed him maps which made it clear that he was harvesting marine life inside the park in a no-take zone where all commercial fishing is banned.
This was the first enforcement action inside the new marine park.
Big news for a pristine patch of ocean off the coast of Chile: Last week the Chilean Senate’s Fisheries Committee unanimously agreed that the Chilean government should establish a 200 nautical mile marine protected area around the Island of Sala y Gómez, near Easter Island.
Oceana and National Geographic have been promoting the protection of this area, which still remains virtually unexplored, and which may well be one of the last pristine vulnerable marine ecosystems in the Pacific.
A hundred days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, it appears that BP has finally succeeded in controlling the blowout that spewed millions of gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.
Yet to paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is just the end of the beginning. The creatures that live in, and the people that depend on the Gulf of Mexico will be affected by the oil spill for years, and we are just starting to comprehend the scope of this tragedy.
That’s why I am pleased to announce that Oceana is launching an ambitious, eight-week scientific expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. We will assess the effects of the oil spill on the marine environment, and we will trumpet the message that ocean oil drilling is too dangerous to be allowed to wreck any more of our oceans and our beaches.
This expedition team, led by Oceana’s Chief Scientist Mike Hirshfield and Oceana’s vice president for Europe, Xavier Pastor, will also include research by Dr. Jeff Short, Oceana’s Pacific science director and one of the world’s leading experts on Exxon Valdez and the effects of oil spills from his years as a government scientist at NOAA. The crew also includes scientists, divers and underwater photographers from our U.S., Chile and Spain offices, as well as academic scientists.
Working from the Latitude, a 167-foot ship capable of sailing in shallow and deep waters, the crew will test for underwater oil and study important seafloor habitats as well as the migratory marine life affected by the spill. This includes endangered sea turtles as well as the rare whale shark.
We are fortunate to have supporters who believe in Oceana’s targeted, science-based work and make this kind of original research possible. The facts uncovered by our on-the-water team will be critical in the fight to end dangerous offshore drilling.
You can give today to help us support the critical work of the expedition. Please help us protect the oceans today!
When the expedition launches in early August, we will post frequent updates on Oceana.org, and I’ll be sure to share the most exciting developments with you.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Today Oceana and NRDC, in collaboration with Mote Marine Laboratory, are launching an oil-detecting underwater robot off the Florida Keys as a first line of defense against underwater oil plumes from the Gulf oil spill.
For 25 to 30 days, the robot, a.k.a.Waldo, will travel undersea in the water column, an area that satellite imagery cannot access, gathering data every few seconds and transmitting the information to researchers via satellite every three hours.
If oil is detected, Mote Marine Laboratory will provide the local government with this information so that emergency resources and response plans can be activated to help protect the Keys’ important ecological resources.
You can check out Waldo’s location and data throughout his expedition at Rutgers University’s web site.