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October 20, 2011

Atlantic Habitat Protection: Putting our Expedition Data to use


Today is a really exciting day for us. In 2008, OSPAR developed a list of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats. The list is unfortunately vague in many habitat definitions, which prevents a common and clear understanding of where they occur. Because the information that was used to define these habitats was gathered years ago, and mostly from northern countries, southern OSPAR countries, like Spain and Portugal have trouble seeing how their habitats fall into the categories, which then prevents them from moving forward with protection measures.

So what’s the big deal with today? Well, Norway suggested (Thank you!) that scientists and specialists from the Contracting Parties of OSPAR come together to develop more precise definitions and is now hosting a workshop in Bergen to discuss the possibility of reopening the list so that the definitions of habitats can be improved upon. Oceana is presenting our findings on “coral gardens, deep sea sponge aggregations and seapen burrowing fauna communities” (sounds all sorts of interesting doesn’t it J).

You see, during our at-sea expeditions we have been able to spot some of the habitats that should be protected in countries like Portugal and Spain – which happen to be those that have delayed the most in protecting habitats under OSPAR. We’ve put together a detailed report on all our findings, so now countries can no longer say they don’t know if they have the habitat based on the vague descriptions.

This is a great example of how we use our fieldwork to support our efforts to protect marine habitats. Governments cannot make the right decisions if they do not have the right data and so much about our oceans is unknown. That is why we work so hard to study the marine environment during our expeditions and gather as much data as we can on every habitat and species that we find. While the outcome of this workshop has yet to be determined, we hope that it is positive and will bring us one step closer to our goals.

Tomorrow we’ll be releasing a press release and more details about our findings, so keep your eyes peeled.