Oceana and Blancpain Launch Ocean Expedition to Explore and Document Ocean Biodiversity

California Aglaja (Navanax inermis) – a predatory sea slug we found in Santa Barbara Island State Marine Reserve. Photo by Oceana/Blancpain.

Beginning April 29, Oceana – in partnership with prestigious Swiss watchmaker, Blancpain – embarked on a five-day ocean expedition around the Northern Channel Islands off California to explore and document biodiversity that makes ocean waters off the state globally important. The expedition will further Oceana’s campaigns to restore ocean abundance and Blancpain’s commitment to ocean exploration and conservation.

Oceana diver conducting research.
Photo by Oceana/Blancpain.

Southern California boasts undersea geology unlike any other off the U.S. West Coast, marked by a series of faults, banks, and underwater mountains (seamounts). This geology, combined with cold nutrient-rich waters that upwell from the deep make this region a global biological hotspot supporting diverse ocean life and habitats. These ocean waters include migratory routes for large whales – including endangered humpback whales – nurseries for great white shark pups, breeding and foraging habitat for California sea lions and giant seabass, gardens for colorful deep sea corals, and canopies of giant kelp forests to name a few.

Oceana and Blancpain intend to undertake a variety of research elements that include:

  • Partnering with a San Diego-based company that uses a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) for military purposes, that for the first time will be used for ocean conservation. We will be using the ROVs side-scan sonar technology to map the seafloor and explore how this technology may be able to help detect the presence of deep-sea corals in addition to seafloor substrate data, and lost fishing gear.
  • Collecting environmental DNA (eDNA) water samples that will be later analyzed in a lab to detect what ocean animals inhabit and traverse these waters by the DNA “footprint” they leave behind in the water column.
  • Conducting scuba dive surveys documenting the diversity of ocean fish and their habitats to provide a comprehensive glimpse into the biodiversity at risk.
  • Identifying individual giant seabass and their aggregation sites – a fish that can weigh more than 500 pounds and once reigned over California’s kelp forests until it was overfished in the 1900’s. Individual fish are identified by their unique spots – like a fingerprint – and documenting them can provide new insights into their movements and conservation. We are partnering with the scientists at UCSB to advance their “Spotting Giant Seabass” research project.

The groups plan to utilize the imagery and scientific information gathered at sea in support of protecting ocean biodiversity by reducing entanglement of ocean animals – including whales, sea lions, sharks, and other fish – in set gillnet fishing gear. These fishing nets used to catch California halibut and white seabass can be 20 football fields long. Despite action by California voters more than 30 years ago, set gillnets are still allowed in federal waters (3-200 miles from shore) off Southern California’s mainland, offshore banks, and in state waters around California’s Channel Islands. Oceana is urging the California Fish and Game Commission and the state legislature to reduce bycatch in the set gillnet fishery.

This scientific expedition is the first of three voyages Oceana and Blancpain have planned in partnership to explore ocean biodiversity off California through 2025.

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 300 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit Oceana.org to learn more.

Founded in 1735 in the Swiss Jura, Blancpain is known as the world’s oldest watch brand. Loyal to its tradition of innovation and confirmed by countless horological complications invented over the years, the Manufacture is constantly pushing the boundaries of watchmaking to take this art to places where it has never been before.

Exploration and preservation of the world’s oceans is at the core to Blancpain. With its legacy of the Fifty Fathoms – the first true diver’s watch – extending over 70 years, Blancpain has become close to the explorers, photographers, scientists and environmentalists who treasure the precious underwater resource. With that affinity has come a determination to support important activities and initiatives dedicated to the oceans.

To date, Blancpain has co-financed dozens of major scientific expeditions, celebrated its role in significantly extending the surface area of marine protected areas around the world, and presented several award-winning documentary films, underwater photography exhibitions and publications. This dedication to supporting ocean exploration and preservation is called Blancpain Ocean Commitment.

For more information about the expedition visit Southern California Expedition 2024 – Oceana USA. To learn more about ocean biodiversity at risk from set gillnets visit www.oceana.org/KeepCAOceansThriving

Red gorgonian coral and black rockfish, Santa Cruz Island. Photo by Oceana/Blancpain.



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