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Mission Blue announce Azores as new Hope Spot

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Rising from the deep seafloor where three continental plates meet, the Azores Archipelago stands as a grand oasis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Here, underwater volcanoes host highly specialized fauna and rugged seamounts hold vibrant, thriving sponges and coral gardens. Forever loved by the whales, adventurous sailors, and its people, the rich heritage of the Azores Archipelago has become globally renowned and cherished. To flourish into future generations, stakeholders believe that these marine ecosystems need to be preserved by a comprehensive network of marine protected areas (MPAs).

Mission Blue, international ocean conservation nonprofit, recognizes the Azores Archipelago as a Hope Spot in support of a coherent network of MPAs that extend from the surface of the sea all the way down to the deep seafloor.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue, says, “The Azores Archipelago is a magnet for life. It really is a magical place.”  She continues, “Launching the Azores as Hope Spot is so logical – just ask the whales. They know how special this place is. This used to be a place where whales were killed and now people are making a living by respecting the whales and having people come out and visit them as fellow citizens of the planet.”

Christopher Pham, Azores Hope Spot Champion, adds, “The inclusion of the Azores as a Hope Spot is a significant step in our mission to promote the protection of this unique place.” Pham works as a research associate at the Okeanos research center of the University of the Azores specializing in deep-sea ecosystems and plastic pollution.

In 2019, the Regional Government of the Azores announced the Blue Azores program, in partnership with the Oceano Azul Foundation and the Waitt Institute that will lead to the declaration of 15% of the Azorean Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) as new no-take marine reserves. However, more work is needed in the conservation of the Azores marine territory, namely the implementation of MPA management plans and a strong Marine Spatial Planning policy, both in progress.

Perhaps what makes the Azores Archipelago such a precious gem of the sea is its rare and richly valuable ecological and biological qualities. The Azores contains a key portion of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – the most prominent ocean floor feature in the Atlantic Ocean. Here, the ocean is divided into eastern and western deep basins and hosts hydrothermal vent ecosystems. Seamounts in the Azores may act as essential “stepping stones” allowing the faunas from Madeira and Canaries, Africa and the Mediterranean Sea to reach the center of the North Atlantic.

Click here to explore the interactive Hope Spot StoryMap, hosted on ESRI.

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DIVING talks 2022: 4 great reasons why you should attend!

European DTA Team

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International Dive Show DIVING talks 2022 takes place from 6-9 October in Troia, Portugal. Here’s four great reasons why you should attend…

1. The ‘Talks’ and the Speakers

What do you get when you have in the same room Dr Alessandro Marroni, Dr Óscar Camacho and Dr Simon Mitchell? Undoubtedly an incredible amount of knowledge in diving physiology and hyperbaric medicine. If you are a diver, you know the value of such a debate.

What do you expect to see in a Bill Stone presentation?

Wouldn’t you like to discuss with Thomas Stachura, Leigh Bishop or Armando Ribeiro their findings underwater in the expeditions that led to the discovery and identification of new shipwrecks?

2. The Exhibition: brands and trials

It’s about talking with ‘who knows’ and testing that piece of equipment even underwater if you want!

Friday, October 7, is BRANDS DAY. Try dive the Mares SCR Horizon, test your preferred scooter, and more. Bring shorts or a swimming suit. This is happening in the swimming pool. Join us on October 7. Diving Talks is also Brands Day!

3. DIVING talks is a family/ partner friend event

You don’t need to leave your family or partner behind. 

If you want to attend, transform this trip into a partner or family trip to Portugal. There are many things they can do while you enjoy the Talks.

It is not that you need to have something planned. The peninsula is such a fantastic site to enjoy; there’s the beach if you want to relax by the sea, there are trails you can check out, or you can relax by the pool.

4. YOU CAN ACTUALLY DIVE!

If you have free time and want to explore Portugal underwater, DIVING talks can be the pretext for a ‘stay and dive’ side-program.

Diving talks partnered with Portugal Dive, a boutique dive concierge that organizes dive trips to Portugal; the mainland and in the Azores and Madeira archipelagos.

Diving recreational or technical, you can expect the European Atlantic’s most transparent waters full of life, schools of fish, the big pelagic, and even monk seals: all that and wrecks, inland caves, you name it.

Opt to arrive one-week earlier or leave one-week later, and chose the stay and dive program for your type of diving and preferences.

For more information, contact Arlindo Serrão via e-mail: arlindo.serrao@portugaldive.com or check out the following links:

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Jeff chats to… Ana Filipa Sobral, Founder of The Manta Catalog Project in the Azores (Watch Video)

Jeff Goodman

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Ana Filipa Sobral, Founder and Project Leader of The Manta Catalog Project in the Azores.

Ana Filipa Sobral is a marine biologist and conservationist based in the Azores Islands. She moved to the Azores in 2011 and once there, realised that this was one of the few places in the world where Sicklefin Devil Rays (Mobula tarapacana) gather in large groups, making it a strategic place to study them. She started the The Manta Catalog Project and through this project, collects photo ID and occurrence data on Mobulid Rays, with the precious help of divers and dive operators as citizen scientists.

Ana is also finishing her PhD which focuses on population genetics and connectivity of migratory elasmobranchs in oceanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The main goal fueling my research has been to help fill the knowledge gaps on elasmobranch biology and ecology to ultimately assist in the design of effective conservation and management plans aimed at protecting their populations in this remote region of the North Atlantic Ocean.

You can find out more about Ana’s important work at: https://mantacatalogazores.wixsite.com/mobulaid/project.


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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