Oceana marks World Ocean Day with expedition to Alboran Sea
Press Release Date: June 6, 2022
An underwater robot, a flying drone, professional scuba divers and a team of scientists are documenting plastic pollution in the depths of the sea and bottom trawling in marine protected areas
The data gathered in the South of Spain will support Oceana’s demands for environmental action from key decision-makers
Oceana is carrying out an at-sea expedition to the Alboran Sea (in the South of Spain) to document plastic pollution in coastal areas and in the ocean depths and its impacts on marine life. The organisation is also documenting evidence of bottom trawling inside marine protected areas and the repercussions for supposedly protected habitats. The expedition coincides with World Ocean Day (8th June), as well as EU Ocean Week when NGOs will mobilise action by EU decision-makers on nature restoration, including by properly protecting marine protected areas and reducing marine pollution.
“The ocean is our greatest ally in the fight against the climate crisis, but marine life is under pressure. With our research catamaran, Oceana wants to bring to light what goes unnoticed on the seabed. This is vital to bring about policy changes that counter illegal and irresponsible fishing activities, habitat destruction and pollution,” said Pascale Moehrle, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe.
Senior Advisor and Expedition Leader at Oceana in Europe, Ricardo Aguilar, said: “2022 is a critical year to put ocean protection back on the policy agenda. On this World Ocean Day, Oceana is going back to sea to collect data, by means of an underwater robot, divers, and drones, which will help us remind Spain about its ocean responsibility, particularly to reduce and reuse plastic, to protect the health of its waters, and to truly protect its marine protected areas against destructive fishing.”
The expedition takes place in the Alboran Sea, a biodiversity hotspot between Spain and Morocco, with incredible ocean productivity generated by the unique interactions of Atlantic and Mediterranean waters. Key benthic ecosystems are found in this area, like exceptional seagrass meadows, corals, and important gorgonian colonies, as well as deep-sea canyons and seamounts — all providing shelter and breeding grounds for marine life such as turtles, dolphins and pilot whales. The area is however heavily impacted by human activities, including destructive fishing practices, like bottom trawling, which poses a serious threat to these marine communities while amplifying the impacts of climate change on the ocean.
This area is also a popular tourist destination, with numerous hotels and beach bars dotted along the coast, making this part of the sea prone to accumulating plastic waste1. Also, vast expanses of greenhouses form a ‘sea of plastic’ on land that can also easily reach the ocean. Spain’s waters are particularly sensitive to the accumulation of plastics due to the urbanisation of its coastal areas, the geomorphology of its sea floors, and the semi-closed nature of the Mediterranean2.
During their time at sea, marine scientists and experts will collect data, images, and video footage to further support Oceana’s advocacy in Europe. The team will use advanced equipment such as a flying drone, specialised scuba divers, and a remotely operated vehicle capable of reaching depths of 300m.
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Note to editors:
1. Sherrington, C. 2016. Plastics in the Marine Environment. Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd, Bristol, 13 pp. https://www.eunomia.co.uk/reports-tools/plastics-in-the-marine-environment/
2. Aguilar, R., Álvarez, H., Campmany, I., Sánchez, N., Marín, P., Blanco, J. (2020) Spain: Diving among plastics. Oceana, Madrid, 18 pp. Spain: diving among plastics https://europe.oceana.org/sites/default/files/oceana-spain_diving_among_plastics.pdf
Video and images available here