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Ocean Census mission aims to discover 100,000 new species

Nov 29, 2023

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Ocean Census has launched its latest subsea mission off the coast of Tenerife, Spain, one of the largest Canary Islands. Its science director, professor Alex Rogers, says the United Nations climate summit decision-makers must “act now” before global warming leads to entire marine species and their habitats becoming extinct.

The Canary Islands, particularly Tenerife, are facing rising ocean temperatures, changing weather patterns, and increased storm surges, exacerbated by recent forest fires.

Tenerife taxonomist Leopoldo Moro, co-director of the Ocean Census Canary Islands expedition, emphasizes the urgency in preventing species loss, calling it “a race against time.”

Scientists from The Nippon Foundation-Nekton Ocean Census Project and Spanish institutions will lead a vital expedition off the coast of Tenerife to urgently catalog new marine species at risk of extinction.

Ocean Census leaders say the unique geography and oceanography of this region fosters a diverse marine ecosystem, ideal for scientific exploration and discovery.

In a small village on Tenerife, Bocacangjero residents report that storms are affecting their homes from the sea during high tide and from the mountains as floodwaters cascade through ravines onto rooftops.

“The waves get huge,” said Malena Rodriguez, a Tenerife resident. “The last ones were eight meters long. It was huge. It harms the little houses that are on the shore a little, but not so much fear as the danger of death.”

But the team of scientists assembled for the Ocean Census expedition is not preaching a message of unbridled doom. Early dives off Tenerife and work done by participants on reconnaissance dives ahead of the mission offer hope of species, new to science, being found in the waters around the island.

Scientist Alfredo Rosales Ruiz with Ocean Census, stated, “We are really, really excited about what we think is a new (coral) species – it’s a yellow one with purple polyps.”

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