September 7, 2022, Montevideo. National Geographic Pristine Seas, in collaboration with local Uruguayan organizations, met with Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou on Tuesday to present two scientific reports recommending the creation of new marine protected areas in the Uruguayan sea.
The scientific reports were produced 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 as part of a collaboration between National Geographic Pristine Seas and the National Navy of Uruguay in the continental slope area 100 miles off the coast of Uruguay . The second report presents the findings of an expedition to Isla de Lobos off Punta del Este.
“Uruguay has the opportunity to change its historical relationship with the sea. The creation of new marine protected areas would bring benefits for all, from the protection of endangered species, the revival of the fishing sector and climate change mitigation,” said Alex Muñoz, director of National Geographic Pristine Seas, Latin America.
The expeditions included a team of expert scientific divers and deployed state-of-the-art remote cameras to document the waters and collect data. The deep-sea cameras, which were first used in Uruguay, are self-contained, self-contained units programmed to record video at a maximum depth of 6,000 meters. Pelagic cameras, also being used for the first time, drift out to sea at shallow depths (10m) to document marine life that dwells closer to the surface.
“We are honored to have worked alongside National Geographic’s Pristine Seas team. Genuine collaboration between government, local scientists and stakeholders, and credible international organizations such as NatGeo is the most effective way to ensure the most needed protection of the Uruguayan ocean,” said Andrés Milessi, a marine biologist who was part of the expeditions and “A Solo Mar Project Coordinator”.
The international community is committed to protecting at least 10% of the planet’s marine ecosystems by 2020 under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. However, in order to restore depleted fisheries, mitigate the impacts of climate change and promote food security, more than 100 countries are proposing a new target of protecting 30% of the sea by 2030.
Currently, Uruguay has protected less than 1% of its sea. NatGeo reports indicate that this significant marine conservation deficit must be corrected in order to safeguard its own ecosystems and fulfill its responsibility towards global efforts to halting the acceleration of biodiversity loss and mitigating climate change, both of which depend on each country’s fair share.
“Countries around the world are seeking to protect their marine ecosystems, and Uruguay can lead by example by creating marine protected areas in its coastal and offshore waters. These recent reports highlight that Uruguay has rich and diverse marine resources unique to other regions, and steps must be taken to support the health of these ecosystems in the future,” said Whitney Goodell, marine ecologist from Pristine Seas.
“The Uruguayan sea has great biological diversity. We have recorded large healthy populations of fish, turtles and sharks that play unique ecosystem roles. For the good of our planet and the very permanence of humanity, it is urgent that we play an active role in the conservation of these oceanic areas”, declared Andrés Estrades, director of Karumbé and scientist of the two expeditions.
National Geographic Pristine Seas will present these reports to national institutions and the scientific community. He is also producing a documentary about their expeditions to Uruguay and efforts to protect its ocean.
ABOUT PISTINE 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 made up 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 inspire the creation of 26 marine reserves, an area totaling over 6.5 million square kilometers.