Seychelles and Maldives to launch a major joint marine research expedition

PUBLISHED February 05, 2020

Seychelles and Maldives will be launching a major joint marine research expedition to explore and conserve the Indian Ocean through these findings, starting in Seychelles on March 16th 2020.

First Descent: Midnight Zone is a 35-day mission to support the sustainable governance of the Seychelles and Maldivian ocean including the protection of 629,000 km2.  A team of 50 international scientists, technicians, media and crew will be carrying out research to gather critical data to define conservation and management priorities and the designation of Marine Protected Areas.

The Research will be focused on seamounts in the Midnight Zone. The Midnight Zone describes ocean depths between 1000metres and 4000metres. Whilst biomass peaks in surface waters, biodiversity peaks within the Midnight Zone.

"A healthy planet needs a healthy ocean. The time to act is now. Seychelles is committed to ocean conservation and by the end of March, we will have 30% of our waters established as protected areas. Seychelles are demonstrating the scientific and economic case for sustainable ocean management and protection and we are delighted that other nations, like the Maldives, are taking leadership" said President Danny Faure of Seychelles.

The expedition will undertake the first research of seamounts in this area of the Indian Ocean. With high levels of biological endemism, seamounts are often described as undersea Galapagoses, home to species found nowhere else on the planet.

"The ocean is a key part of each Maldivian.  71% rely on the ocean for their primary source of income. We have committed to a 5-year initiative to advance ocean protection and sustainably develop the blue economy.  This expedition will help us establish the long-term sustainability of our economic growth, livelihoods and jobs through establishing marine protected areas to build ocean resilience" said President Ibrahim Mohamid Solih of Maldives.

To support a healthy, resilient and prosperous ocean, scientists are calling for 30% of the ocean to be protected. Currently, only 2% is strongly protected and 8% is designated for protection. 

"Having so recently had the pleasure of welcoming Maldives back into the Commonwealth family, it is very satisfying that our partnership with Nekton will support Maldives and Seychelles in fulfilling their commitment to ocean sustainability. Seychelles is our Commonwealth Blue Charter champion for marine protection, and by safeguarding 30% of its waters for conservation it sets a fine example which we hope will be followed by other countries. This mission is a very practical expression of how Commonwealth Blue Charter values in action are leading to enhanced protection in the Indian Ocean, and to improving ocean health more generally for our planet," said Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.

The joint Seychelles-Maldives Expedition is led by scientists from Nekton and the University of Oxford working with, and on behalf of the Governments of Seychelles and the Maldives. Scientists from Seychelles and the Maldives will be participating throughout the mission.

The expedition will be using the worlds most advanced deep diving submersible alongside a dozen research tools including landers, sampling, sensor and mapping technology.  In August 2019, the submersible – Limiting Factor, built by Triton Submarines, completed the world's first manned exploration of the deepest point in each of the five oceans (Five Deeps), and is the only human occupied vessel that can visit any place in our oceans.

The expeditions Mothership, DSSV Pressure Drop, and submersible have just completed sea trials in the Mediterranean before beginning the journey towards Seychelles.

First Descent Midnight Zone is supported by Nektons unique alliance of business, governments, academia and civil society uniting behind a common purpose to explore and conserve the ocean.

The Maldives leg of the expedition is being undertaken to support Maldives Blue Prosperity, in partnership with the Blue Prosperity Coalition.


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