In April 2011, Oceana launched a two-month research expedition in the Baltic Sea.
The Baltic expedition, led by oceanographer Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana Europe, took place aboard the Hanse Explorer, a 48-meter certified ice class expedition vessel build for long exploration voyages and diving operations, which has also been adapted to serve as a platform for the ROV.
Using divers and an underwater robot capable of diving to more than 300 feet, the crew of the 157-foot Hanse Explorer documented the underwater biodiversity in the waters of every country bordering the Baltic -- the first time any environmental organization has done so.
Covering more than 7,000 nautical miles, the crew completed over 130 dives to gather underwater video and photos and collect samples, which will help the team prepare proposals for new marine protected areas or extension of existing protected areas.
Much of the Baltic suffers from eutrophication that leads to oxygen depletion. The algae blooms caused by eutrophication give the water a green sheen, limiting visibility in the Baltic to almost zero in many places. On many of the teams’ dives, they saw little wildlife in the oxygen-depleted areas. But especially near some marine protected areas, the crew saw an array of marine life, including sea kelp, starfish, mussels and sea snails.
The Oceana team will now review the data, photographs and videos in order to propose an expanded set of marine protected areas and measures to protect them. Oceana is planning a follow-up expedition in the spring of 2012.