New expedition to study and document critical ocean habitats that support biodiversity, sustainable fishing and climate change mitigation in Uruguay.
Montevideo, Uruguay (March 22, 2021)— This week, National Geographic Pristine Seas, the Organization for Cetacean Conservation (OCC) and the Government of Uruguay departed from La Paloma, in the department of Rocha, on an expedition to conduct scientific research in oceanic areas off the coast of Uruguay that are being considered for protection.
Uruguay’s ocean territory is home to many incredible marine species such as whales, sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, rays, fish, birds and more. The area includes virtually unexplored coral reefs and sea canyons which are an important habitat for hake, anchovies, sharks, shrimp, squid and deep sea lobster.
“We are very happy to finally be in Uruguay to work with local scientists in support of the conservation of the Uruguayan sea. The planet is experiencing a serious environmental crisis and the creation of marine protected areas brings enormous benefits to reduce the loss of biodiversity, mitigate climate change, produce food and provide jobs based on sustainable activities,” said Alex Muñoz, National Geographic Pristine Seas, Director of Policy, Latin America and leader of the expedition.
This will be the first expedition Pristine Seas will embark on since the beginning of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The expedition team will deploy deep sea cameras and pelagic cameras to study the research area, collect video footage and gather research to support the creation of marine reserves in Uruguay’s waters.
As part of the promotion of an ocean culture in Uruguay, OCC has presented a proposal to the Uruguayan government for the creation of 30% of marine offshore reserves, as well as reserves in the coastal area of Maldonado and Rocha, through its Oceanosanos campaign. The aim is to protect more than 50 different species, and it includes a deep-sea coral reef area, essential for Uruguayan marine biodiversity.
The expedition will utilize two types of camera technology to document the waters and collect data. The deep sea cameras are self-contained, autonomous, units that are programmed to record video at a maximum depth of 7,000 meters. Pelagic cameras will be deployed on the surface of the water to document marine life who dwell closer to the surface.
“We are honored to welcome National Geographic to Uruguay with the support of the Uruguayan government and Navy. It’s a great opportunity for our country to discover the depths of its ocean and thus have more tools for the creation of Marine Protected Areas that collaborate with the conservation of the marine ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and the search for solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change,” said Andrés Milessi, marine biologist, oceanographer and OCC’s coordinator.
The international team of scientists will draft a scientific report from the expedition which will be presented to the Uruguayan and local government, scientific community and general public. National Geographic will also produce a documentary about this expedition and the efforts to protect the ocean in Uruguay.
National Geographic Pristine Seas is an exploration, research and media project founded and led by National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala. The Pristine Seas team is comprised of determined scientists, policy experts and filmmakers who work to inspire the creation of protected areas where marine life can thrive—while ensuring effective management for years to come. In Latin America, Pristine Seas has helped to inspire the creation of 10 marine reserves, an area totalling over 1M square kilometers. Learn more at nationalgeographic.org/pristineseas.
The Organization for Cetacean Conservation (OCC), a Uruguayan non-profit organization, works to protect marine biodiversity, tackle illegal fishing and nurture an ‘oceanic culture’. Since 2000, the organization has ensured conservation measures for the Southern Right Whale, as well as other resident or migratory species in Uruguay’s territorial waters. Through research, environmental education, creative arts, advocacy and public campaigns, OCC seeks to spotlight ocean issues, promote sustainable fishing, and encourage the creation of marine protected areas. Learn more at: occ.org.uy and oceanosanos.org.