Oceana Begins Expedition in Baltic Sea to Promote New Marine Protected Areas

The Oceana-chartered research vessel Hanse Explorer yesterday set sail from Copenhagen on a two-month expedition, covering 7,000 miles through the waters of the nine countries bordering the Baltic Sea (Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Sweden).

The aim of the expedition is to visit a dozen locations with high environmental value which were identified during last year’s campaign and perform in-depth research, in order to provide additional data for the Baltic governments and give Oceana persuasive arguments to achieve the declaration of new marine protected areas (MPAs) and better management of already existing ones.

Oceana researchers will also document illegal, destructive, and unsustainable fishing activities which are still frequent in the Baltic, one of the most polluted seas in the world.

“The Baltic Sea requires drastic fishing controls and ecosystem protection measures to urgently start its recovery,” says Xavier Pastor, head of the expedition and Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Cooperation between society, governments, NGOs and the industry is crucial to succeed in this task. Oceana is doing its share”.

The Hanse Explorer sails with twelve crew members on board, as well as twelve researchers from ten countries, including professional divers to film and photograph sea depths at sub-zero temperatures. The Oceana team also has an underwater robot (ROV) which can reach the greatest depths in the Baltic trenches, up to 500 m deep. Other research instruments, such as Van Veen grabs (or dredges), temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll (CTD) meters will be used to increase knowledge about this sea, and specifically about the areas to be recommended for protection.

Oceana has already published two studies with the results of the expedition which took place between April and June 2011, together with the research performed from land and in harbours. Using this information, a collaboration process has been launched with several countries in the area, such as Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Some of the countries have already agreed to Oceana’s requests as regards the creation of new MPAs. Independent scientists have been invited on board the Hanse Explorer, and Oceana has received specific suggestions for new research locations.

Finnish biologist Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana’s Baltic Sea Project Manager, adds: “Our midterm goal is for 30% of the Baltic to be covered by well-monitored Marine Protected Areas, so that the ecosystem and fishing stock recovery process speeds up. We should have reached 20% by 2015”.

Oceana’s Baltic campaign and expedition are possible through the generous support of Arcadia, Zennström Philanthropies and the Robertson Foundation. Oceana also appreciates Revo for their collaboration.

Subsea World News Staff , April 24, 2012;  Image: Oceana

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