SANTIAGO, Chile, March 18, 2011 — The joint scientific expedition to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and Salas y Gómez Island (Motu Motiro Hiva), organized by the National Geographic Society, Oceana and the Chilean Navy, concluded its unprecedented research efforts yesterday with the arrival of the Navy’s vessel, “Comandante Toro,” at the port of Valparaíso, Chile.
This unique research undertaking studied one of the last pristine ecosystems of the Pacific Ocean, documenting the biodiversity surrounding Salas y Gómez Island and exploring the seamounts and ecosystems in the exclusive and currently unprotected economic zone of Easter Island. In addition to the team from National Geographic and Oceana, Dr. Carlos Gaymer, professor of marine biology at the Universidad Católica del Norte, and Uri Pate, member of the Rapa Nui community, also took part in the expedition. The scientific results obtained are being processed and are expected to be reported in the coming month.
“Exploring the underwater world of the Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park has allowed us to open a window to the past, to see how Rapa Nui must have been before intensive fishing. At Motu Motiro Hiva we saw an abundance of fishes and lobsters that does not exist anymore at Rapa Nui,” said Dr. Enric Sala, marine ecologist and National Geographic Fellow. “We are looking forward to sharing more discoveries about this Chilean marine jewel and its importance to the ocean’s health when the results are ready.”
Using state-of-the-art technology, the expedition documented the underwater biodiversity of the Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park, created last October by President Sebastian Piñera, which will create a baseline required to monitor the conservation status of the area. Studies also were conducted around Easter Island to assess its condition and determine the need to adopt additional protection measures.
“Thanks to this unprecedented and successful effort, Chile will rely on new scientific information otherwise very difficult to obtain. Once a final report about the outcomes of the expedition is drafted, we expect to continue working with the Rapa Nui people and Chilean officials to identify the best ways to protect such relevant marine ecosystems,” said Oceana Executive Director Alex Muñoz.
Among the world-class technology used to register the marine deeps were three spherical crystal drop cameras that recorded at depths of up to 1,600 meters, revealing the presence of deep fishes and sharks. These cameras, added to more than 330 dives and recordings made by the Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) at a depth of 220 meters, resulted in 100 hours of high-definition video and 5,000 underwater pictures.
The technology of the OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel) “Comandante Toro” contributed to the success of the expedition. Among other things, the technology allows for low fuel operation and emissions in compliance with international standards. The vessel has a stand-alone operation feature spanning 30 days, travelling approximately 16,000 kms — the equivalent of two return trips from Valparaíso to Easter Island, without refueling. The “Comandante Toro” is the newest and most modern vessel of the Chilean Navy.
“I am fully satisfied with the achievements of this scientific expedition that largely achieved the goals established. This wouldn’t have been possible without the joint, committed and enthusiastic efforts of the vessel’s crew, who participated fully in the scientific tasks of the expedition and performed excellent work. My congratulations to the team’s scientists, cameramen and crew,” said Captain Andrés Rodrigo Ramírez.
The expedition drew on efforts that began in March 2010 — with the support of the Waitt Foundation — with the preliminary expedition to Salas y Gómez that provided the foundation for the creation of the 150,000 sq km Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park by the Chilean government.
– The Chilean office of Oceana has launched campaigns aimed at protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems from trawling and other fishing gears that damage the marine bed and shark species threatened by finning (cutting the fins and getting rid of the body in the ocean). In addition to promoting the establishment of marine parks and protected coastal areas, Oceana has prepared two bills aimed at preserving vulnerable marine ecosystems from harmful fishing activities and forbidding finning. Both have been submitted to the National Congress.
– This expedition is part of Mission Blue’s pristine seas expeditions. Mission Blue is an action-oriented marine conservation initiative founded by National Geographic, the Waitt Foundation and the SEAlliance along with strategic government, private, scientific and conservation partners, including the TEDPrize, Google and IUCN. This multi-year, global partnership initiative is aimed at restoring health and productivity to the ocean by inspiring people to care and act, reducing the impact of fishing and promoting the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs).
Technical Specifications of the OPV Comandante Toro:
|Fretwork:||(1810 t) 3.80 meters|
|Loaded displacement:||1,728 tonnes|
|Speed:||>20,0 knots(36 kms./hr.)|
|Flight deck:||Capacity for 1 middle-sized helicopter|
|Passenger capacity:||20 people|
|Electric plant:||3 diesel generators, each of 400 kVA|
|Weapons:||1 40/70 mm naval gun, 6 Ametralladoras .50 mm|
|Commanding officer:||Navy Captain Andrés Rodrigo Ramírez|