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Marine Life & Conservation

Greenpeace Antarctic expedition find abundance of life in southernmost submarine research dive in history

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Researchers on board a Greenpeace International expedition to identify vulnerable ecosystems on the Antarctic seafloor have conducted what is believed to be the southernmost scientific submarine dive in history, at 65 degrees south. Scientists witnessed an “incredible abundance of life, including corals and other vulnerable species” and will use it as evidence to call for the area to receive special protection at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The expedition managed to enter the remote Weddell Sea as Antarctic sea ice reached the lowest extent on satellite record. [1]

The submarine pilot, John Hocevar, from Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign said: 

“The deep world we saw down there would normally be covered by ice, it was an incredible abundance of life. But there’s now less ice in Antarctic waters than at any time in recorded history. Since the last record was broken in 2017, an area of sea ice roughly the size of Switzerland has disappeared. This ice used to protect this precious region, now we need governments to. We urgently need ocean sanctuaries created across Antarctic waters to protect this crucial ecosystem and give it space to recover.”

Dr. Susanne Lockhart, Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences and leading scientist of the expedition, said:

“It was amazing to see how much life there was on a part of the sea floor normally sealed in darkness by sea ice for miles in any direction.  We were witness to not just a surprising abundance of life but also an incredible diversity of corals and other highly vulnerable species.

“Marine life has been thriving here, hidden below sea ice, for thousands of years. We will use data from this dive to call for the area to be designated a Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem and get the protection it urgently needs.”

The latest IPCC report calls for 30 to 50% of the world’s oceans to be protected. The report also says climate change has caused substantial damage and increasingly irreversible losses to marine ecosystems. The extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments.

The Weddell Sea is the site of a vast proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA) – or “ocean sanctuary” – first proposed nearly a decade ago. Greenpeace International has previously slammed CCAMLR for letting exploitation of Antarctic waters drive its agenda, leaving only 5% of Antarctic waters protected, despite a commitment from the Commission to have completed a representative network of marine protected areas by 2012.

This current expedition is part of Greenpeace’s campaign to protect at least 30% of the global oceans by 2030. This week, governments are meeting at the United Nations to agree on a Global Ocean Treaty – an essential new tool to create a network of ocean sanctuaries, free from harmful human activity, across international waters.

For more information about Greenpeace visit their website by clicking here.

Marine Life & Conservation

Big Seaweed Search Returns!

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From 23rd – 31st July 2022, the Marine Conservation Society and the Natural History Museum will be asking people across the UK to head to the coast and spot seaweed as part of community science project, Big Seaweed Search Week.

Seaweed is one of the world’s great unsung heroes, playing a crucial role in marine ecosystems and helping to mitigate the effects of climate change. The UK, with over 650 species of seaweed, is home to a diverse range of species.

The Big Seaweed Search Week asks beachgoers to search for, and record, 14 of the most common seaweed species. This vital information helps the Marine Conservation Society and the Natural History Museum to map the distribution of specific species and collect long-term data that enables them to determine, as a result of seaweeds found, the impact of environmental changes in the ocean.

Amy Pilsbury, Citizen Science Lead at the Marine Conservation Society, said:“It’s easy for anyone to get involved in Big Seaweed Search Week – you don’t need to be a seaweed expert or live near the sea, just one visit to the coast will do. Studying seaweeds can tell us a lot about wider ocean and environmental conditions and the information supports real scientific research.

“Seaweed is a real ocean superstar, helping to buffer the effects of climate change, absorbing and storing carbon and protecting our coasts from waves and storm damage. The more data we gather with our Big Seaweed Searchers, the more knowledge and influence we have to protect our ocean, and seaweeds, for the future.”

As well as providing vital habitats for other species, seaweeds play a major part in marine food chains and are a rich source of nutrients for animals such as crabs and sea urchins.

Seaweed plays a critical role in combating the climate crisis. These fast-growing algae produce oxygen – more than land plants – with phytoplankton (like seaweed) providing at least half of the oxygen we breathe.  Seaweed absorbs carbon more effectively than trees, storing an estimated 175 million tonnes each year – equal to 10% of the world’s car emissions.

However, populations of kelp – large brown seaweeds that are a vital ‘blue carbon’ store – are reported to be declining around the world, limiting ocean ecosystems’ abilities to absorb carbon and combat the climate crisis.

The Big Seaweed Search gathers information on species, such as kelp, which have the potential to be affected by rising sea temperatures, the arrival of non-native species and ocean acidification – environmental changes affecting the ocean and the health of marine ecosystems.

A young lumpsucker: Alex Mustard

Data gathered by volunteers helps build a picture of what our shores are like, how they’re changing and informs scientists and decision-makers how best to protect them.

Juliet Brodie, Merit Researcher at the National History Museum, said:“It’s inspiring to see how the Big Seaweed Search is developing.  We’re using the data submitted for our scientific research to build distribution maps which means we can track seaweed species as they respond to environmental changes over time. We’ve also been able to use over 1,000 submitted records in our work on a Red Data List of British seaweeds – which evaluates indigenous species and how endangered they are.”

It’s easy to get involved in Big Seaweed Search Week, and anyone can take part. Training videos and downloadable resources are available, including a guide which helps beachgoers to identify the seaweed species they’re likely to spot and explains what they need to do.

The survey can be carried out as an individual or in groups, and be completed on a mobile, tablet or computer.

To get involved simply:

  1. Register to take part and download your guide and recording form at bigseaweedsearch.org
  2. Choose your 5 metres[AB1]  of coastline to survey
  3. Fill in your survey form
  4. Take LOTS of clear, close-up photographs for your survey to be accepted
  5. Submit your survey through bigseaweedsearch.org

You can visit the Marine Conservation Society for all the information you’ll need to get started.

Header Image: Paul Naylor

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Marine Life & Conservation

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Andy Forster of Dive Project Cornwall

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Gemma and Ian chat to Andy Forster.  Andy is the Project Director at Dive Project Cornwall.  He tells us about his own passion for diving as well as how Dive Project Cornwall is going to educate and inspire many youngsters over the coming year.

Have a listen here:

Find out more at www.diveprojectcornwall.co.uk


Find more podcast episodes and information at the new www.thebigscuba.com  website and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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A luxurious dive resort in the heart of Lembeh Strait. Enjoy refined services while exploring the rich waters of Indonesia.

The resort is nestled around an ocean front deck and swimming-pool (with pool-bar) which is the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail at the end of a busy day of critter-diving.

All accommodation is full board and includes three sumptuous meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are buffet meals and in the evening dining is a la carte.

Book and stay before the end of June and benefit from no single supplements in all room types!

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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