Twenty one scientists supported by 19 crew members departed on NIWA’s research vessel Tangaroa recently to study Antarctica’s ocean, atmosphere and ecosystem processes. Their focus will be on establishing monitoring programmes for the newly created Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA). Scientists from China, Italy and France are also on board.
At more than 1.55 million km2 in size, the Ross Sea MPA is the world’s largest and only a year old. Its zones range from fully protected to special research zones as well as areas left open to fishing.
Voyage leader Dr Richard O’Driscoll says the main aim of the trip is to provide baseline information about the MPA so scientists can start to evaluate its effectiveness.
“During the voyage we will be making a range of observations from the atmosphere and water column. We will also undertake some biological sampling of small fish and fish living close to the seabed that are potentially impacted by the toothfish fishery,” Dr O’Driscoll says.
“We are going to places we have never gone before and putting cameras down onto areas of the seabed where no one has looked before. It really feels like a voyage of discovery. The Ross Sea still has large areas which are unknown,” Dr O’Driscoll says.