Greenpeace’s Expedition To The Sargasso Sea

August 16, 2019

Greenpeace recently visited Bermuda and also launched an expedition to the Sargasso Sea to “study the impact of plastics and microplastics on marine life, and to document the importance of this unique ecosystem for protection under a new Global Ocean Treaty that is being negotiated at the UN.”

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza departed from Penno’s Wharf in Bermuda and sailed upon the Sargasso Sea over the course of nearly three weeks.

Greenpeace ship Esperanza docked St. Georges | Photo by Shane Gross/Greenpeace

Greenpeace Bermuda Aug 2019

“The world’s only borderless sea, the Sargasso has been a source of mystery and myth, from the lost kingdom of Atlantis to the Bermuda Triangle,” says Greenpeace Oceans Director, John Hocevar.

“Today, the Sargasso Sea continues to challenge us with questions that could affect us all. Is our reliance on fossil fuels and throwaway plastics transforming this vital sea turtle nursery area into a death trap? We hope our findings from this research expedition will shed light on the health of this unique ecosystem,” Hocevar adds.

The voyage to the Sargasso is part of Greenpeace’s ambitious Pole to Pole expedition aimed at highlighting the threats facing international waters – from the Arctic to the Antarctic – and the urgent need for their protection under a new Global Ocean Treaty.

A plastic bottle cap among Sargassum in the Sargasso Sea | Photo by Shane Gross/Greenpeace

Plastic Debris in the Sargasso Sea

“We have six months to build support for a strong Global Ocean Treaty. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to scale up ocean sanctuaries, the best tool we have to protect our oceans,” Hocevar stresses.

Onboard the Esperanza are Greenpeace scientists and partner researchers at the University of Florida who analyzed the critical importance of the Sargasso’s iconic drifting Sargassum [seaweed] habitat that acts as a nursery for juvenile sea turtles.

PhD Candidate, Alexandra Guilick from the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida, explains,  Sargassum mats are critical habitat for a number of species and provide refuge, forage, and early developmental habitat for juvenile sea turtles. More recently, it has been hypothesized that Sargassum may provide a heat advantage to developing sea turtles, providing a warmer environment than the neighboring open water, thus potentially increasing sea turtle growth rates.”

A clump of sargassum floats by the ship in the Sargasso Sea | Photo by Shane Gross/Greenpeace

Sargasso Sea Leg of Pole to Pole Expedition

Fellow PhD Candidate, Nerine Constant adds, “Creating detailed thermal profiles of Sargassum mats will improve our understanding of the importance of this habitat, and in light of climate change, may help predict potential impacts of increasing sea surface temperature on the suitability of this habitat for sea turtles and other species.

“We hope this study and our collaboration with Greenpeace will help raise awareness of the importance of protecting the Sargasso Sea from threats like climate change and plastic pollution.”

Also onboard was Emmy-award nominee and environmental activist, Shailene Woodley who announced the expedition on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, as the newest Greenpeace Oceans Ambassador.

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Category: All, Environment