The president of Seychelles chose the ocean’s depths to deliver an urgent message about protecting the world’s oceans.
President Danny Faure’s speech on Sunday, reportedly the first-ever live address from an underwater submersible, made a plea for more protection of the “beating heart of our planet.”
Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa.
Scientists have said that small island nations are among the most vulnerable to the sea level rise caused by climate change. Land erosion, dying coral reefs and the increased frequency of extreme weather events threaten their existence.
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Faure spoke during a visit to an ambitious British-led science expedition exploring the Indian Ocean depths. Oceans cover over two-thirds of the world’s surface but remain, for the most part, uncharted. We have better maps of Mars than we do of the ocean floor, Faure said.
“This issue is bigger than all of us, and we cannot wait for the next generation to solve it. We are running out of excuses to not take action, and running out of time,” the president said from a manned submersible 400 feet below the waves, on the seabed off the outer islands of the African nation.
The oceans’ role in regulating climate and the threats they face are underestimated by many, even though, as Faure pointed out, they generate “half of the oxygen we breathe.” Scientific missions are crucial in taking stock of underwater ecosystems’ health.
During the expedition, marine scientists from the University of Oxford have surveyed underwater life, mapped large areas of the sea floor and gone deep with manned submersibles and underwater drones.
The ocean’s remain a mystery for the most part, as little is known about the watery world below depths of 90 feet, the limit to which a normal scuba diver can go. Operating down to 1,640 meters, the scientists were the first to explore areas of great diversity where sunlight weakens and the deep ocean begins.
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Wearing a Seychelles T-shirt and shorts, the president told The Associated Press after his speech that the experience was “so, so cool. What biodiversity.” It made him more determined than ever to speak out for marine protection, he said. “We just need to do what needs to be done. The scientists have spoken.”
By the end of the mission, researchers expect to have conducted more than 300 deployments, collected around 1,400 samples and 16 terabytes of data and surveyed about 269,100 sq. feet of seabed using high-resolution multi-beam sonar equipment.
The data will be used to help Seychelles expand its policy of protecting almost a third of its national waters by 2020.
“From this depth, I can see the incredible wildlife that needs our protection, and the consequences of damaging this huge ecosystem that has existed for millennia,” Faure said in his speech, according to The Associated Press. “Over the years, we have created these problems. We can solve them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.