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April 18, 2012

What lies in the deep, with a little help from a robot

BY: Candela Farroni




Even though it sounds a bit like science fiction, working with robots is now second nature for Oceana´s marine scientists. We are talking about the ROV (underwater robot) that has been a part of our expeditions since 2006 and lets us get images such as these. Oceana was a pioneer among NGO’s in incorporating this technology.

What does this robot do? Its main function is documenting habitats and species that are hard to reach, to know more about them and use that information in protection proposals. Most of Europe’s protected areas are on coastlines and reach only species that live near the surface.

Much remains unknown about the depths and many places have been recorded for the first time with the ROV during Oceana missions. This is something we are hoping to change and the ROV’s videos and photos allow us access to knowledge that would otherwise be unavailable. These images spark an interest that we expect turns into new protection measures directed to the deep and the species that live there, which are currently forgotten.

During the last few years, the data we have gotten thanks to the ROV has provided some pleasant surprises, such as discovering a valuable coral reef  or the possibility to justify (and achieve!) the protection of several species in Spain.