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Portuguese Minister of Maritime Affairs, Ricardo Serrao Santos Photo: Hanna Thevik

- We have been hurting the ocean for decades

8 months ago
Written by Ronald Toppe
Sustainability > - We have been hurting the ocean for decades

- We have been hurting the ocean for decades

8 months agoSustainability
Written by Ronald Toppe
Portuguese Minister of Maritime Affairs, Ricardo Serrao Santos Photo: Hanna Thevik

On Monday 24 January, the Portuguese Minister of Maritime Affairs, Ricardo Serrao Santos, came on board the Statsraad Lehmkuhl, with a clear message.

Santos worked for many years as a marine biologist before becoming a politician, and has seen how the sea has changed with his own eyes.

- We have been hurting the ocean for decades now, and as the UN tells us, we are not doing enough, he says.

A volcanic crater, inside a larger crater. Photo: Hanna Thevik
A volcanic crater, inside a larger crater. Photo: Hanna Thevik

Only found here

The Azores are a special place. A volcanic archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic, where the continental plates that form Africa, North America and Eurasia meet. Iceland sort of, but much further south.

The Azores bullfinch lives only here. Photo: Wikipedia / Putneymark
The Azores bullfinch lives only here. Photo: Wikipedia / Putneymark

The location, far from other land masses, the climate and the special geology, is the reason over 400 animal and plant species are only found here, nowhere else on the planet - they are endemic.

The archipelago is located where the tropics meet the temperate regions. This makes the mix of birds special, exotic canaries and familiar robins both nests here.

Atlantic canary. Photo: Wikimedia / Juan Emilio
Atlantic canary. Photo: Wikimedia / Juan Emilio

Where the ocean currents meet

Underwater life is also special. Santos explains.

- The Azores is also a crossroad for the water in the Atlantic, where several ocean currents meet and mix. It is very high in terms of biodiversity, compared to further north, being one of the most amazing ecosystems of the deep sea.

He does not exaggerate. 24 different species of whales have been observed around the islands, from small dolphins to huge sperm whales. Four of the seven species of sea turtles are found here, and this is where the loggerhead turtle, hatched on the east coast of the United States, go to grow large.

The little turtle cubs are helped on their journey by the Gulf Stream, which sends an arm across the ocean to the archipelago.

Loggerhead turtle Photo: Wikimedia
Loggerhead turtle Photo: Wikimedia

Overfishing

Around the islands there are a variety of fish species, tuna, sharks, swordfish to name a few of the more exotic. Many of the species, including species that are also found elsewhere in the Atlantic, have the Azores as an important core area.

- We are regulating our fisheries better, but still have big problems with illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries around the world. This is a major fight that we have to put together. But in some situations the regulations work well, so we have improved, says Santos.

Santos talking to the cadets. Photo: Hanna Thevik
Santos talking to the cadets. Photo: Hanna Thevik

An example

But the job is not over, and Santos is happy for the attention Statsraad Lehmkuhl and the One Ocean Expedition creates.

- The One Ocean Expedition is now part of a big movement. If I look back to the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, there was little reference to the ocean. As late as 2016, the first global ocean assessment was produced by the UN, and now we have the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. But before that there was nothing. I think that since 2015 we have a new agenda. And this expedition, made by Norway, is a step forwarding the message given by this new agenda of global relevance.

Here you can see a part of the intervju with Santos:

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The One Ocean Expedition is a circumnavigation by the Norwegian tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl. We aim to to share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for a sustainable development in a global perspective.

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