For World NGO Day, we would like to show you this interview that we did with Helena Álvarez, a marine scientist from Oceana.
Problems Oceana face as an NGO
There are many problems that affect the oceans today, but the greatest of them is perhaps ignorance. It has been said many times that we are more familiar with the planet Mars than we are the depths of the sea, even though it takes up two thirds of the planet on which we live, it is known as the well-named, blue planet.
Because of pollution in all its variants (unregulated dumping, plastics, noise, etc.) to the overexploitation of fishery resources, through to the unknown effects of climate change and the limited or inadequate management of protected areas, the self-healing capacity – mistakenly believed to be unlimited – of the seas is coming to an end, a fact collected in innumerable scientific publications.
How NGOs act
The first step to remedy the situation is to know what is living in the ocean depths before it disappears, and how it is being affected by these anthropogenic pressures. Therefore, Oceana has been documenting marine ecosystems for more than ten years and carrying out oceanographic research campaigns in which these ecosystems are discovered and documented, which are sometimes found in areas where information is scarce or has never been previously investigated.
To carry out this mission, Oceana employs a non-intrusive technique that consists in the management of a remotely operated submarine robot (R.O.V), which is able to collect images up to 1,000 meters deep and relay them through an optical fibre umbilical cable attached to the boat. On board, these images are received on a screen, where a team of scientists observes them carefully and then analyses them once ashore. Likewise, the documentation of shallower waters is carried out by a specialised videographer and underwater photographer
The most interesting species for the NGO
The species that are most interesting are those that form in what are known as “vulnerable habitats”. These are usually characterised by growing on the marine floor, have great longevity (some can live up to 4,000 years) and create structures that favour association with other species, therefore generating what is called a hot spot of biodiversity. These species are especially sensitive to external disturbances.
Some examples are coral reefs and aggregations of depth sea sponges. White coral reefs are formed mainly by the species Madrepora oculata and Lophelia pertusa, which represent a perfect habitat for the shelter, breeding and protection of many other species, harbouring biodiversity indices that have nothing to envy from those of tropical corals.
In this way, Oceana manages to amplify the voice of the depths of the ocean, placing images, data and samples where before there was only a large information void. As a picture is worth more than a thousand words we provide this information to the corresponding authorities, thus, in many cases, achieving the protection of the investigated area. This prevents the imminent degradation and disappearance of the ecosystems that, despite living in the darkest depths, are essential for life on the planet.