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Oceana Completes Two Month, 5400-Mile North Sea Expedition

oceana ROV

ROV manoeuvre at Skagerrak, Norwegian Trench (Juan Cuetos / Oceana)

Scientists of marine conservation group Oceana have wrapped up an eight-week research cruise in the North Sea, launched in June this year.

Covering a distance of 5,400 miles (8,700km), the team surveyed 15 areas of special conservation interest across the waters of the UK, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. Oceana will now study the data collected during their mission to identify key areas that require protection from human activity such as excessive fishing, marine traffic or oil extraction, and be granted the status of marine protected area (MPA) by their respective national authorities.

During the North Sea 2017 Expedition, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery and in collaboration with the North Sea Foundation, Oceana used the latest technology to allow scientists to study and film marine life at the bottom of one of the world’s most productive, yet troubled seas.

oceana critters

Clockwise from top, plumose anemones (Metridium senile) Aberdeenshire, Scotland; edible crabs (Cancer pagurus) fighting, Thyborøn, Denmark;  nudibranch (Facelina auriculata), Farne Islands, UK (Carlos Minguell / Oceana) and lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata), Thyborøn, Denmark (Juan Cuertos / Oceana) 

'Underwater ecosystems, although out of sight for most of us, have an impact on our everyday lives,' said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana Europe. 'By protecting and ensuring healthier marine life through well-managed marine protected areas (MPAs), we can recover popular fish stocks like cod, haddock and sole, as well as make our beaches cleaner and even improve water quality in general

An underwater robot was used for more than 110 hours to stream real-time images from depths of up to 460m and scuba divers carried out 34 dives to photograph and film marine life and habitats. A multibeam echosounder was also deployed to map the seafloor, and scientists took a total of 188 samples from the ocean floor to analyse a range of different species that live in the seabed.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), recommends protecting 30 per cent of marine waters within marine protected areas (MPAs), but only 15 per cent of the greater North Sea currently has such protection. In addition to protecting vulnerable and threatened species and habitats, MPAs can also play an important role in supporting the recovery of commercial fish stocks, by safeguarding areas of ‘essential fish habitat’ where fish feed, reproduce or grow.

oceana divers1000

Divers filming a monkfish (Lophius piscatorius). Skagerrak, Norwegian Trench, Norway (Carlos Minguell / Oceana)

Data gathered during the expedition will also be used to consider the effectiveness of some existing MPAs in the North Sea and propose stronger management, as currently only 12 per cent of MPAs in the region have fully implemented management measures.

Oceana’s survey areas were selected in consultation with government agencies, scientists and experts in the five nations studied, to identify priority areas where first-hand data are most needed to advance the protection of marine life.

This year’s research builds on Oceana’s initial surveys of the North Sea in 2016, and the findings will form the basis of proposals to strengthen the network of North Sea MPAs, through the creation of new MPAs, expansion of existing ones, or improved management measures. The data compiled will also be shared with governments, scientific institutions, and other NGOs in the countries surveyed.

The video below shows the highlights of Oceana's two-month expedition, check out their website for all the videos from their voyage.




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