The Beacon

Diving In: The Story Behind Three Oceana Expeditions

(Photo: Oceana)

Each year, Oceana undertakes several scientific expeditions to explore and gather data about our ocean’s many ecosystems. In the recent issue of Oceana magazine, we cover three of these exciting expeditions from last year. Read an excerpt below, or visit the full article here.

 

Diving In: Three Oceana expeditions offer a rare glimpse of some of the ocean’s unexplored habitats

Balearic Islands

You might know the Balearic Islands as Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and a handful of smaller islands clustered off the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Their sandy beaches and clear-blue waters are a popular playground for many Europeans, but beyond the partying tourists and shores of these famed isles lie vast expanses of unexplored and biologically rich deep ocean. In August 2013 Oceana launched an expedition to document the diverse and varied sea life inhabiting one of these places—the Emile Baudot escarpment.

“We have been working in Balearic Islands since the beginning of Oceana in Europe,” says Silvia García, Oceana marine scientist and member of the expedition crew. “It has rich marine biodiversity and important types of habitats and fishing resources that need to be maintained and recovered.”

Last August, the Ranger set course for the Emile Baudot escarpment, a large rocky wall that runs from Ibiza to Menorca, spanning more than 300 kilometers (or 186 miles) and reaching depths of up to 2,000 meters below the surface. The Ranger’s crew spent 10 days exploring the ridge with an ROV, gathering the first underwater footage of the escarpment and its inhabitants. Beneath the waves they encountered a fantastic and startling array of marine life.

Near the surface dolphins, manta rays, and swordfish leapt out of the water. Farther down, large grey groupers and long-spined sea urchins lurked in caves, while fields of brachiopods and crinoids blanketed the slopes of the escarpment. In the deepest areas, they found swaying sea fans and clusters of glass and lollipop sponges. But the expedition also discovered that these deep-sea habitats are increasingly at risk from oceanic garbage. Footage revealed plastic bags, cans, and fishing gear as much as 700 meters below the surface.

 

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