A team of Greenpeace activists, divers and scientists has discovered a “biodiversity haven” on the Vema Seamount, which is 1 000 km off the coast of Cape Town in the southeast Atlantic ocean.
The discovery was made onboard the environmental organisation’s research expedition called Arctic Sunrise, which entails a Pole-to-Pole ship tour.
Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner Bukelwa Nzimande in a statement on Tuesday said the bountiful marine life the group found was a sure sign that seamounts were unique wildlife hotspots, which were critical to the resilience and health of the world’s oceans.
“It is this resilience that gives them a living chance in the face of the climate crisis, which they are directly impacted by.”
During the expedition, divers documented a kaleidoscope of underwater flora and fauna, including yellow-tailed mackerel, striped bream, various calcareous algae, soft coral and crustacean species that thrive in these oceanic ecosystems, which are ideal owing to their similarity to coastal regions.
Mount Vema rises from the seabed at 4 600 m to just 26 m below the surface of the ocean. The upper slopes and plateaus are covered in soft corals, seaweed and kelp forests, teeming with life.
For example, the divers found a population of Tristan Crayfish, or spiny lobsters, which have been fished to the brink of extinction twice in the past.
"Marine life in these unique areas are able to flourish and entire species recover, provided that the right measures are established and implemented. This is why the creation of ocean sanctuaries through an instrument like the Global Oceans Treaty is not only necessary, but critical.
“Current protections are insufficient and poorly implemented; we need real action to protect life in our oceans and further build resilience on a planet in crisis," said Nzimande.