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Corals and litter in Biscay canyons

ghent4Scientist David van Rooij and his team at the Gent University, Belgium, have been investigating the distribution of cold-water corals, collecting hydrographic data and carrying out sediment coring in the Guilvinec and Whittard Canyons, Bay of Biscay.  Scientific results from the Whittard Canyon showed that sediments sampled during this cruise harbour unique meiobenthic communities.  Multicore sampling performed in 2006 yielded highly diverse nematode samples, with much greater numbers of genera compared to the Portuguese canyons, and two new species have been now identified with endo- and ectosymbiotic prokaryotes. The genus of one of these two new species has never before been found in the deep-sea!  A high organic load, moderate hydrodynamic disturbance, combined with relatively high temperatures and salinity due to the influence of the Mediterranean Outflow Water create a unique benthic habitat with potentially many more discoveries waiting to be made.

Scientists used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to look at the types of coral communities that were living in the two canyons.  They found that two cold-water coral species, Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata were the most common coral species observed in the Guilvinec Canyon (750 - 950 m depth), but that the areas visited in the Whittard Canyon (450 - 1040 m depth) were mainly colonised by sea pens, and coral observed was mostly dead.

During the cruise the scientists observed clear signs of anthropogenic impact affecting life in and on our seas. A prime example were long lines that got caught in the ROV, forcing the crew to abort the dive and assess the damage back on deck. The fishing lines had blocked the ROV thrusters and were tangled on the ROV cable, making it drag corals and oysters in its path whilst it was being taken back to the surface. These fishing lines had been laying on the seabed long enough for corals to start growing on them!  Even though submarine canyons seem a hostile place to deploy fishing gear, old trawl marks on the seabed gave evidence of destructive fishing activities. The only things left in the path of the trawl marks were dead, with broken corals and rubble or even nothing at all!  Numerous fishing vessels were operating at the eastern branch of the Whittard Canyon during a previous cruise in 2009, showing how intensive the fishing practices are in this area. As demonstrated here and at numerous other instances, destructive fishing, and the gear left behind, affect seafloor life and hamper scientific research with potentially disastrous consequences. Not only was the seabed damaged; numerous observations of seabirds with ropes, hooks and fishing lines entangled around their necks, beaks and legs presented us with a sad reality of how we are so easily capable of destroying life around us. Steaming back, the scientists on board were at times surrounded by plastics and litter floating on the sea surface, hungry seabirds pecking at it as if they were expecting a treat for lunch. 

HERMIONE first SPP meeting, 27 April 2010, Brussels

On April 27th, the first meeting of the HERMIONE Science-Policy Panel (SPP) took place in Brussels. The SPP is a high-level panel composed of key European policy-makers, stakeholders from industry and NGOs, representatives of international institutions and leading scientists. It builds on the model of the highly successful HERMES SPP. The objective of the panel is to ensure that progresses in our scientific research and the strategies emerging from it are promptly brought to the attention of the relevant European and international policy-makers so that policy evolution can take place through constant iteration during the entire lifetime of the project.

This meeting, entitled "Deep-sea biodiversity science and governance beyond 2010" brought together some 35 participants. Highlights included a presentation by Isabella Lövin, Member of the European Parliament (EP) who shared her experience as a member of the Fisheries Committee of the EP and discussed "The Common Fisheries Policy and healthy marine ecosystems - the great challenge of the reform". The Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, Jacqueline McGlade, a strong supporter of the HERMES and HERMIONE projects, presented the major findings and recommendations of the Group of Experts which worked under the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly to produce an 'Assessment of Assessment' in view of the establishment of a Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socio-economic Aspects. The Director for Environment of the European Commission Directorate General for Research, Manuela Soares, updated participants on European Deep-Sea Research.

The presentation of HERMIONE was made in our now traditional "rolling presentation" format where six HERMIONE scientists – Phil Weaver, Cristina Gambi, Jeroen Ingels, Ricardo Serrão Santos, Rob Tinch, Sybille van den Hove – took turn to present highlights from the project.

Participants also heard and discussed presentations about the Good Environmental Status criteria within the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive implementation process (Gianna Casazza, EC DG ENV), and on international and EU level developments regarding the protection of vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, deep-sea fisheries and marine biodiversity (John Brincat, EC DG MARE). Fishing was further discussed by Matt Gianni from the Deep-Sea Conservation Coalition, who gave an NGO perspective on deep-sea fishing. David Johnson, the Executive Secretary of the OSPAR Commission and a very active member of the HERMIONE Science Implementation Panel, discussed key messages for deep seas from the 2010 OSPAR Quality Status Report.

Two other European projects funded under FP7 with high relevance fro HERMIONE where presented: Jan Helge Fosså, from IMR Norway presented research on ecosystem based management of corals, fish and fisheries in the deep waters of Europe and beyond under the CoralFish project, while Jean-Pierre Gattuso from CNRS presented the EPOCA project on ocean acidification and specifically discussed impacts of acidification on deep-sea ecosystems.

GOBI, the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative, was presented by its coordinator Patricio Bernal who announced the official partnership between GOBI and HERMIONE. Finally participants heard some underwater noise and learned about their environmental impacts during a presentation by Frank Thomsen from Cefas.


The HERMIONE Science Policy Panel met for the first time in Brussels on 27 April 2010. A list of presentations planned for the meeting are listed below.

Introduction to HERMIONE (Adobe PDF, 9.3MB)
Phil Weaver, HERMIONE Coordinator & National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

European Deep-Sea Research Strategy Update
Manuela Soares, Director, Directorate I (Environment), DG Research, European Commission

Hotspot Ecosystem Research and Man's Impact On European Seas: the HERMIONE project
Rolling presentation by HERMIONE scientists: Cristina Gambi (Loricifera diversity, Adobe PDF, 1.3MB), Jeroen Ingels (Dimensions, distribution and interconnection of deep-sea ecosystems, Adobe PDF, 2.2MB), Ricardo Serrão Santos (Seamounts, Adobe PDF, 1.3MB), Rob Tinch (Why is the deep sea important?, Adobe PDF, 0.6MB), Sybille van den Hove (Human activities and impacts in the deep sea, Adobe PDF, 1.9MB)

Assessments in the marine environment (Adobe PDF, 1.1MB)
Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director, European Environment Agency

The Common Fisheries Policy and healthy marine ecosystems - the great challenge of the reform (Adobe PDF, 1.4MB)
Isabella Lövin, Member of European Parliament

Good Environmental Status criteria within the MSFD implementation process
Gianna Casazza, Marine Unit D.2, DG Environment

Opportunities and levers to achieve Good Environmental Status in deep-water ecosystems
Stefan Lutter, International Marine Policy & Marine Protected Areas, WWF Germany

Deep-Sea Fishing: An NGO perspective (Adobe PDF, 0.6MB)
Matthew Gianni, The Deep-Sea Conservation Coalition

Protection of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, deep-sea fisheries and marine biodiversity: International and EU level developments (Adobe PDF, 0.2MB)
John Brincat, European Commission DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Unit B-1

Ecosystem based management of Corals, Fish and Fisheries in the deep waters of Europe and beyond: The CoralFish project (Adobe PDF, 6.5MB)
Jan Helge Fosså, Senior Scientist, CoralFish and Institute of Marine Research, Norway

OSPAR Quality Status Report: Key messages for deep seas
David Johnson, Executive Secretary OSPAR

The Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI) (Adobe PDF, 3.2MB)
Patricio Bernal, IUCN & GOBI Coordinator

Ocean acidification and its impacts on deep-sea ecosystems: Part A (Adobe PDF, 3.0MB); Part B (Adobe PDF, 6.7MB)
Jean-Pierre Gattuso, EPOCA coordinator and CNRS Senior Scientist, Observatoire Océanologique de Villefranche sur Mer.

Environmental Impacts of underwater noise (Adobe PDF, 2.1MB)
Frank Thomsen, Team Leader and Scientific Programme Manager, Cefas


Cold-water coral research cruise underway

cherokeeThe research vessel POSEIDON started its 400th cruise on June 29 to the Porcupine Seabight off Ireland. Together with colleagues from the Senckenberg Insitute and the University College Cork, MARUM scientists are exploring the cold-water corals in this area. Unlike their tropical fellows living in shallow and warm water, cold-water corals can be found in colder regions and in depths of 1,200 m. Cold-water corals build up reefs with their carbonate skeletons, generating unique ecosystems, like the carbonate mounds off Ireland. Within HERMIONE scientists are studying the development of this ecosystem over the last 10,000 years. They want to find out which changes in environmental conditions affected the vitality of cold-water coral ecosystems.  Using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) MARUM-CHEROKEE, the scientists are exploring the sea bed, making measurements and taking samples.  Follow their online cruise blog to find out more about their research, observations and day-to-day life at sea. 

Third IPBES meeting takes place

ipbes_group_photoThe third Ad Hoc Intergovernmental and Multi-stakeholder Meeting on an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES III) met from 7-11 June 2010, in Busan, Republic of Korea. The meeting was attended by 232 delegates representing 85 countries, one observer, eight intergovernmental organizations and 21 non-governmental organizations, five conventions and six UN bodies and specialized agencies. Over the five-day meeting, delegates discussed whether to establish an IPBES and negotiated text on considerations for its function, guiding principles and recommendations. Delegates adopted the Busan Outcome document (UNEP/IPBES/3/L.2) whereby they agreed that an IPBES should, inter alia: be established; collaborate with existing initiatives on biodiversity and ecosystem services; and be scientifically independent. They also recommended that: the UN General Assembly be invited to consider the conclusions of the meeting and take appropriate action for the establishment of an IPBES; and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council invite UNEP, in cooperation with UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Development Programme (UNDP), to continue to facilitate any ensuing process of implementing the IPBES until such time that a secretariat is established. More details and a full summary of the meeting can be found here.

HERMIONE image bank goes live!


The HERMIONE image bank is now online!  The gallery is filled with images from all areas of HERMIONE science, as well as the stunning photographs and images that were submitted in the first HERMIONE annual image competition.  The gallery will continue to be populated throughout the life of the project, and is accessible to the general public and scientists alike.  Click on the "gallery" link in the top navigation bar, or click here to go straight there.


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