Greenpeace expedition proves marine species worthy of protection in the Antarctic

by    DiveSSI    7th March 2018
Underwater Antarctic submarine image.
Submarine Image of the Seabed in the Antarctic. © Greenpeace
Underwater photo of Javier Bardem in the Greenpeace Submarine in the Antarctic
Javier Bardem in Greenpeace Submarine. © Greenpeace
Krill, Euphausia superba, represent a critical component of the Antarctic food web, providing food for fish, whales, seals, penguins, albatross and other seabirds, as well as marine invertebrates.
Greenpeace is on a three-month expedition to the Antarctic to carry out scientific research, including seafloor submarine dives, to highlight the urgent need for the creation of a 1.8 million square kilometre Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. Key findings from the footage and samples gathered from the submarine dives will be shared with the Antarctic Ocean Commission (CCAMLR) to establish localised protections as well as to strengthen this and other upcoming proposals for marine protection in the Antarctic.
Krill in the Antarctic: Krill, Euphausia superba, represent a critical component of the Antarctic food web, providing food for fish, whales, seals, penguins, albatross and other seabirds, as well as marine invertebrates. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace
An Acanthogorgia gorgonian coral skeleton provides substrate and habitat for many other species including a white Clavularia stoloned octocoral, antarcturid isopods (crustaceans), demosponges  hexactinellid glass sponges and tube-dwelling polychaete worms. The host gorgonian still has living Acanthogorgia branches of polyps to the left and right. Collected at around 560m depth off Lecointe Island in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctic Peninsula.
Greenpeace is on a three-month expedition to the Antarctic to carry out scientific research, including seafloor submarine dives, to highlight the urgent need for the creation of a 1.8 million square kilometre Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary. Key findings from the footage and samples gathered from the submarine dives will be shared with the Antarctic Ocean Commission (CCAMLR) to establish localised protections as well as to strengthen this and other upcoming proposals for marine protection in the Antarctic.
Gorgonian Coral Skeleton in the Antarctic: An Acanthogorgia gorgonian coral skeleton provides substrate and habitat for many other species including a white Clavularia stoloned octocoral, antarcturid isopods (crustaceans), demosponges hexactinellid glass sponges and tube-dwelling polychaete worms. © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace
Commerson's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii).
Seen from the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise on the way to the Antarctic.
Commerson's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii). © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace
Gentoo penguins on an ice flow in Errera channel, Antarctic Peninsula.
Greenpeace is conducting scientific research and documenting the Antarctic’s unique wildlife, to strengthen the proposal to create the largest protected area on the planet, an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.
Gentoo penguins on an ice flow in Errera channel, Antarctic Peninsula. © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

Oscar winner Javier Bardem calls for Antarctic marine reserve

Up until now unexplored parts of the Antarctic seabed harbour sensitive and thus valuable ecosystems with marine animals such as sponges, corals and sea feathers

This is shown by images that Greenpeace experts have made in recent weeks from a manned submarine at depths of several hundred meters in the Antarctic Ocean. The data is intended to support an EU application initiated by the German government to set up the world's largest marine protected area in the Weddell Sea. In October 2018, the Antarctic Commission CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) will decide on the application. "These images underscore the importance of protected areas in the Antarctic," says Greenpeace marine expert. Sandra Schöttner, who was on board as a scientist. "The federal government must help its own claim to success by advocating international protection of the protected area directly with the blocking states."

On board the Greenpeace expedition ship "Arctic Sunrise" was also the Spanish actor Javier Bardem. The Oscar winner is committed to protecting this valuable and sensitive ecosystem from damage caused by human intervention. "There is so much life on the ocean floor. I would not have expected that in these waters. This biodiversity must be protected. "

Delicate ecosystems on the seabed

The research team under the direction of the seabed ecologist and Antarctic Expert Dr. med. Susanne Lockhart, California Academy of Sciences, investigated the ocean floor in the northern part of the Weddell Sea and west of the Antarctic Peninsula - we reported on the expedition's launch (https://blog.mares.com/greenpeace-travels-to-unexplored-parts-of-the-antarctic-6403.html). For this, the team collected high-resolution video data during eight dives and took samples that will be evaluated within the next few months.

The habitat structure and marine fauna suggest so-called Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs), particularly sensitive marine ecosystems. There is an unusually high number of characteristic marine invertebrates - whose abundance of species is hardly inferior to tropical coral reefs. Many of these species form complex, three-dimensional structures on the seabed. They thus provide habitat and protection for numerous other species, such as Antarctic ice fish. Such densely populated, slow-growing communities are considered to be particularly sensitive to human intervention, such as industrial fishing.

Written by
DiveSSI
Date
7th March 2018
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