September 7, 2022, Montevideo. National Geographic Pristine Seas, together with local Uruguayan organizations, met on Tuesday with Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou to present him with two scientific reports recommending the creation of new marine protected areas in the Uruguayan sea.
The scientific reports were made jointly by the National Geographic Pristine Seas team and Uruguayan researchers. The first report is based on an expedition that took place in March 2021 in a collaboration between National Geographic Pristine Seas and the National Navy of Uruguay to the continental slope area 100 miles off the Uruguayan coast. The second report features findings from an expedition to Isla de Lobos off Punta del Este.
“Uruguay has an opportunity to change the historic relation it has with the sea. The creation of new marine protected areas would bring benefits for all, from the protection of endangered species, the recovery of the fishing sector and the mitigation of climate change,” said Alex Muñoz, National Geographic Pristine Seas, Latin America director.
The expeditions included a team of expert scientific divers and deployed cutting edge remote cameras to document the waters and collect data. The deep-sea cameras, which were used for the first time in Uruguay, are self-contained, autonomous, units that are programmed to record video at a maximum depth of 6,000 meters. The pelagic cameras, also used for the first time, drift in the open ocean at a shallow depth (10 m) to document marine life who dwell closer to the surface.
“We are honored to have worked alongside the National Geographic’s Pristine Seas team. True collaboration between the government, local scientists and stakeholders, and credible international organizations such as NatGeo is the most effective way to achieve the most needed protection of the Uruguayan ocean” said Andrés Milessi, a marine biologist who was part of both expeditions and “Un Solo Mar” project coordinator.
The international community agreed to protect at least 10% of the planet’s marine ecosystems by 2020 as part of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. However, in order to recover depleted fisheries, mitigate the impacts of climate change and promote food security, over 100 countries are proposing a new goal of protecting 30% of the sea by 2030.
Currently, Uruguay has protected less than 1% of its sea. NatGeo’s reports state that this significant marine conservation deficit must be corrected in order to safeguard its own ecosystems and fulfill its responsibility to global efforts to halt the accelerating loss of biodiversity and mitigate climate change, both of which depend on each country making its fair share.
“Countries across the globe are seeking to protect their marine ecosystems, and Uruguay can set a strong example by creating marine protected areas in their nearshore and offshore waters. These recent reports highlight that Uruguay has rich and diverse marine resources, unique from other regions, and actions should be taken to support the health of these ecosystems into the future.”, said Whitney Goodell, Pristine Seas Marine Ecologist.
“The Uruguayan sea has a great biological diversity. We have registered large healthy populations of fish, turtles and sharks that play a unique ecosystemic role. For the sake of our planet and the very permanence of humanity, it is urgent that we take an active role in the conservation of these oceanic zones.”, said Andrés Estrades, director of Karumbé and scientist on both expeditions.
National Geographic Pristine Seas will present these reports to national institutions and the scientific community. It is also producing a documentary about their expeditions in Uruguay and the efforts to protect its ocean.
ABOUT PRISTINE SEAS
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. Pristine Seas has helped to inspire the creation of 25 marine reserves, an area totalling over 6.5M square kilometers.