A deep dive into Uruguay’s Blue Sea

At Gaia we always enjoy taking a deep dive, and this month we’ve been fully immersed in the sea.

A wave of international commitments

At the annual Our Ocean conference in Panama, from 2nd-3rd March, we witnessed governments and international funders pledging to safeguard, improve and expand marine protected areas and biodiversity corridors.

On 4th March a long-awaited deal was finalised around governance of the high seas, which cover almost half of our precious blue Earth. The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) or ‘High Seas Treaty’, aims to protect biodiversity in international waters and sets out a framework for establishing and maintaining a network of marine protected areas. It will come into force when ratified by 60 UN member states. Timing is of the essence, as climate change, pollution, industrial fishing and deep-sea mining are threatening ecosystems and marine biodiversity on the high seas and in coastal waters like never before.

This was an opportunity for countries to commit to actions that will preserve and strengthen life in the ocean, and we are delighted that our local partners in Uruguay were part of that wave of commitments.

Testing the waters in Uruguay

Marine life in Uruguay

Cold-water corals, hydrothermal vents and more than 100 species of sharks and rays (10% of the global biodiversity), are just some of the remarkable and stunning marine biodiversity to be found in the southwestern Atlantic waters off Uruguay. There is so much more to explore and discover of this underwater world, which is at the mercy of deep-sea and IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing.

We are delighted to be closely linked with local partners and the Mar Azul Uruguayo initiative, actively engaged in policy, research and education to protect and regenerate marine habitats and species.

Mar Azul Uruguayo means ‘Uruguay’s Blue Sea’ and reflects the +200,000 km2 where warm and cold currents converge, ocean meets estuary, and migratory routes lie for whales and dolphins, sea turtles and sea birds. The creation of new and transboundary Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and the improved governance of existing coastal MPAs, is a particular focus for the MAU team, working with government authorities, academia, the fishing sector and others.

A pilot project looks at Uruguay’s unique and diverse population of sharks, drawing on local and scientific knowledge raise awareness and implement conservation measures. Dangerous or endangered? (Peligrosos o En Peligro?) is a campaign aimed at local fishermen living along the Uruguayan coast, researchers and decision-makers, engendering empathy for these keystone species, and developing policies for their protection.

The ‘Ocean Inspires Us’ is the educational arm of Mar Azul Uruguayo, through which we are cultivating a deeper connection between the sea and students from primary schools and high schools, to foster an ocean culture and embed appreciation of Uruguay’s important marine biodiversity. At Gaia we support this conviction that working with young people is fundamental to generate a paradigm shift in the way we relate to, reconnect with and nurture the planet.

Sea lions off the coast of Uruguay

Images: Marcos Pietrafesa, scuba divers Uruguay; Juan Maria Raggio, Jumara Films; Andrés Milessi, Nazarena Beretta, Ivan Ibarra, Mar Azul Uruguayo.