EDs, note: Real-time satellite tracking of Ranger is available at http://www.oceana.org/ranger.
The Nassau grouper is vanishing, sharks are under attack, and sea turtles that lay eggs on Florida and Bahamas beaches are endangered. These are some of the pressures on marine wildlife that Oceana’s Ranger, one of the largest catamarans in the world, will bring to the world’s attention as it starts the second half of an 11,000-nautical-mile transoceanic expedition that began in California and will end in the Mediterranean this summer.
Ranger sets sail April 21 – on the eve of international Earth Day 2005, set aside each year to take stock of the environmental health of our planet, 70 percent of which is covered by water. The imposing 71-by-32-foot catamaran will travel from Miami to Europe, with stops in the Bahamas, the Sargasso Sea, Bermuda and the Azores. Oceana is the only international environmental group solely dedicated to protecting the oceans. Ranger is on a mission to highlight the crisis in our oceans by recording the beauty and tragedies occurring in a dozen marine biodiversity hotspots in the Pacific, Caribbean, Atlantic and Mediterranean.
“Overfishing is making the Nassau grouper, once plentiful in waters not too far from Miami, disappear,” said expedition leader Ricardo Aguilar, a marine biologist from Oceana’s Madrid office who is listed by the United Nations as an expert in sea mammals. “The lemon shark that breeds in Bahamian mangroves – well known and loved by many in South Florida -- is threatened, as are the dangerous tiger shark and bull shark, all because of finning. Sea turtles that nest on Florida beaches are also listed as endangered or threatened. We will film, record, and report on all these problems, and Oceana will work very, very hard to get these results and problems known in South Florida, the rest of the United States, Europe and Latin America. This is important because what happens in our oceans is truly a global problem.”
Finning is the commercial fishing practice of cutting the fins off sharks, often while the animals are still alive, and discarding the rest of the body. Fins are considered a delicacy in Asian cuisine, and a bowl of shark fin soup can fetch up to $100 in a Hong Kong restaurant.
A former hospital ship for Seventh-Day Adventists, Ranger and its international crew of 12, including Spanish, French and American videographers, scientists and bloggers, have been traveling since the expedition’s Jan. 14, 2005 launch in Marina Del Rey, Calif.
“This is Oceana’s first ocean expedition and it has been a spectacular success,” said Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless. “The sublime submarine images our staff is capturing will give us a baseline from which to protect ocean habitat and marine wildlife, which belong to the world.”
After Ranger’s scheduled stop in the Bahamas, the crew’s next stop before crossing the Atlantic will be the Sargasso Sea, a 2-million-square-mile oval in the North Atlantic off the Southeastern United States that’s specked with floating seaweed islands. That’s the refuge of endangered baby sea turtles, which hatch on beaches from Florida to the Carolinas, swim out to the Sargasso Sea, and spend their “lost years” there, eating and hiding from predators. When they’re big enough, they swim back west and hop on the northbound Gulf Stream for their legendary life cycle, which takes the turtles to European waters before they return to the Americas to complete the circle and lay their eggs on the beaches of their own birth.