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Macaronesia: Flagship Expedition Launched to Uncover Tenerife’s Hidden Marine Biodiversity

Expedition assembles a world-class coalition of expertise to urgently catalogue new marine species at risk of extinction.

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Intense 21-day mission, running from 27 November to 17 December 2023, will be augmented by a species discovery workshop featuring leading experts from the Ocean Census Science Network.

As the global community’s leaders convene for the Conference of the Parties (COP), scientists from The Nippon Foundation-Nekton Ocean Census Project and Spanish institutions will concurrently lead a crucial expedition off the coast of Tenerife to urgently catalogue new marine species at risk of extinction.

Ocean Census, a global initiative committed to accelerating the discovery and protection of ocean life, proudly announces its Flagship Expedition to discover ocean life in the less explored waters of Tenerife, Canary Islands. This region’s unique geographical and oceanographic features foster an incredibly diverse marine ecosystem, ripe for scientific exploration and discovery.

The Macaronesia – Tenerife Submersible & Diver Expedition assembles a world-class coalition of expertise co-delivered in partnership with the Jesús Ortea Research Group, Museo de Ciencias Naturales de Tenerife (MUNA), Universidad de La Laguna (ECOMAR), and Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO). Macaronesia is a biogeographical region of eastern-central Atlantic, straddling the equator from the Azores to the Canary Islands at the heart.

“The Canary Islands has exceptional marine wealth and great potential to be discovered. In the case of Tenerife, this expedition will be essential to know more clearly the depths of the Canary seas and the species they hide, data that will be very useful for the Canary Islands Government, in order to propose conservation strategies of our marine ecosystem. Thank you for the commitment of Ocean Census to work in the Canary Islands and contribute new research and scientific knowledge of world relevance to society.”

Mariano H. Zapata, Councellor of Ecological Transition and Energy of the Canary Islands Government

The Pisces VI submersible will be deployed in the Radazul area down to 300 metres, while the Finnish Scientific Dive Academy will navigate shallower waters around Tenerife’s volcanic coastline. This intense 21-day mission, running from 27 November to 17 December 2023, will be augmented by a species discovery workshop featuring leading experts from the Ocean Census Science Network, including esteemed taxonomists from the Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER), Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN-CSIC), Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia (CNB-CSIC), University of Barcelona and Museo del Mar de Ceuta.

“Our goal is to discover as many new species as possible and help create a new baseline of the rich diversity of life in the Canaries, Macaronesia. We will be deploying cutting-edge containerised laboratories that will allow us to create a digital twin of species enabling cyber-taxonomy to discover ocean life at speed and scale.”

Alex Rogers, Expedition Science Co-Lead and Science Director at Ocean Census

Although it’s estimated that between 1-2 million species inhabit our ocean, a staggering 75-90% remain undiscovered, making this mission crucial for marine biodiversity understanding. Bolstered by Ocean Census foundational partners The Nippon Foundation and Nekton, this collaborative endeavour is set to address the critical challenge of biodiversity loss head-on.

Documenting biodiversity and new species will create a baseline of ocean life to advance science, conservation and sustainable management of ocean life around Tenerife. Tenerife scientists working with international experts providing training and knowledge exchange will help to strengthen skills and capacity within the Canaries for long-term research and biomonitoring.

As world leaders convene for the COP28 climate summit, addressing the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges, data collected from the mission will be vital in offering insights to COP policymakers as they make decisions to protect vast tracts of our ocean.

“We know that life originated in the sea and that it continues to host the greatest taxonomic diversity on planet Earth, but the complexity of exploration of this environment for humans have always been the cause of great ignorance. Thus, while the continuous development of humanity is demanding the expansion of extractive uses and occupied areas in the marine environment, we have barely made any progress in the inventory of its biota, something pressing in remote areas and deep zones. Initiatives such as the Ocean Census programme promote knowledge that is essential to help nations implement sustainable policies with marine life.”

Leopoldo Moro, Expedition Science Co-Lead and taxonomist at the Jesús Ortea Research Group

With an emphasis on immersive storytelling, Ocean Census will share the thrill of ocean discovery with the world, bridging the gap between scientific research and public advocacy through compelling visuals and narratives. This mission’s story will be told by Tenerife’s own scientists, augmented by Ocean Census’ award-winning production team, and punctuated by daily social media updates, live educational broadcasts, and programming from the expedition with free resources for schools and students.


Image Credit: Cuapetes canariensis Fransen, Schubart & Moro, 2022

Media Contact:

Kira Coley, Head of Communications, Ocean Census, 

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