We look back at a successful 2022 of both regional and international big steps for marine science and conservation. It’s been a busy year filled with open ocean expeditions, new scientific papers we contributed to, on-site scientific training programs, spectacular wildlife sightings, and high-end marine research. We are tremendously excited to continue on the same foot next year, developing both new and ongoing projects.
Since the beginning of 2022, BCSS has welcomed many visitors; from scientific training participants staying for several weeks, to individuals who wanted to improve their diving skills or become a PADI pro by undertaking our 3-month Dive Master Internship. During our practical hands-on training at the station students learn various marine research methods, practicing data collection, mastering scientific writing and presenting skills, performing basic data analysis, learning various software, including digital ocean exploration by testing our new 3D multibeam seabed mapping technology, as they work alongside world class marine scientists.
At our 5-star PADI dive centre, our experienced Dive Manager, Mauro Jije, has been busy teaching PADI courses. After pool sessions, students joined expeditions in the Bazaruto Archipelago – enjoying the stunning sceneries and abundant marine life. We greatly looking forward to welcoming more national and international students in the coming years to our Scientific Training Programs that embrace oral presentations, proposals and articles writing, species ID skills, marine sensors operations, field work and diving skills and much more.
Benguerra island lies in the heart of Inhambane province’s waters, which were declared a Hope Spot by Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue in January 2022. The NGO that aimed to select and protect pivotal marine areas, acknowledged the work Mozambique is doing to strive to meet the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to protect 30% of global terrestrial and marine resources by 2030. The Inhambane Seascape became part of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
“It is fantastic to see Mozambique and its marine life richness and conservation efforts featured in Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue. BCSS has been working in the region for the last five years, opening the first Ocean Observatory in the Indian Ocean releasing data directly towards conservation of the West Indian Ocean. We share the same goals as Mission Blue, so this is a great step forward for Mozambique” – Dr. Mario Lebrato, BCSS Chief Scientist.
Kisawa Sanctuary is a new concept in luxury hospitality built on the southern coast of Benguerra. Sitting on 5 km of pristine tropical coastline, Kisawa has been created to ensure maximum privacy, with minimum impact on the environment. We have been working together since 2017 on a daily basis, jointly implementing best practices by setting conservation goals for minimizing the environmental imprint. The data and knowledge output of BCSS informs everyday environmental decisions of the sanctuary, ranging from once-in-a-lifetime diving opportunities, seasonal marine life spotting, laboratory visits and general ocean awareness, to guest experiences that are harmonious and meaningful. To see examples of our sustainability practices, including permaculture gardens, please see our latest article here.
In February, the BCSS field station acquired deep-sea rated lights and batteries for the new lander development. The unit consists of a metal landing platform, a camera set up, a strobe with 72h of continuous light and a structure for marine sensors. The team is currently finishing manufacturing the platform under technicians’ and engineers’ supervision to ensure it is ready for 2023 offshore work. As a next step, equipment will be tested in the on-site tank, and eventually deployed in the ocean. At the same time, BCSS is developing a mini-submarine Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to further explore wildlife hotspots beyond diving range, as well as to provide professional training. Both units can monitor marine biodiversity and oceanographic parameters at a depth of 200 m. This technology will provide valuable information and data on marine habitats in the deep-sea.
The BCSS team was excited to find fossilised forests, which are exposed as a consequence of sea level fluctuations in the last 20,000 years. We conducted preliminary checks in BCSS’s partner laboratories in Europe using 14C and isotopes, and some of these forests are at least 7,000 years old, being exposed only now. The findings are being analysed within an exploratory project of how terrestrial habitats are being converted into marine ecosystems with time and sea level rise.
BCSS’s partners from the Mammal Research Institute, Whale Unit of University of Pretoria are working on a paper regarding the identification of cetaceans using static acoustic recorders. Recording whales’ vocalizations hydrophones provide valuable data on marine mammals that are not easily detected by visual observation. The database, that BCSS has been acquiring from these sound traps, enables long-term underwater soundscape monitoring in Mozambique. Results may contribute towards deepening the knowledge essential for conservation.
In May, Frontiers in Marine Science published an article led by BCSS’s Chief Scientist Dr. Mario Lebrato, alongside an international team of scientists. The manuscript, “Gelatinous Carbon Impacts Benthic Megafaunal Communities in a Continental Margin”, outlines how sinking ocean zooplankton (e.g. jellyfish) transporting carbon (jelly-C) to the deep ocean impacting benthic animals (e.g. invertebrates and fish) once the biomass reaches the seabed. The research was conducted using small submarines – Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) – in collaboration with the oil industry off West Africa at the depths ranging from 20 to 1300m.
In July we published our first half-yearly marine debris monitoring report. In partnership with African Parks, BCSS collects marine debris at five carefully selected locations on Benguerra Island. The data gathered from the clean-ups, conducted from January until the end of June, have been analysed and are accessible through our report. The team has spent a total of 72 hours at the sites, collecting 1.020kg of marine debris that have been brought to our Waste Management Facility at the BCSS station, where it was analysed based on the type and source of waste.
In August, BCSS Chief Scientist, Dr. Mario Lebrato, was invited to lecture at the Ocean University of China, located in Qingdao, as part of the university’s International Summer Course. As a member of the panel (consisting of professors and politicians), Mario also discussed topics under the theme “Global Climate Actions in an Uncertain Future” via a video meeting.
September was a spectacular month for humpback whale sightings. To share more about whales’ ecology, our in-house cetacean researcher, Ekaterina Kalashnikova, wrote an article explaining how to read humpbacks behaviour, how individuals are being identified photographically, and how this information aids better understanding of the species distribution, movement range, spatial-temporal preferences and population structure.
“The horizon is constantly broken by breaching, fluking, pectoral fin slapping whales. We sometimes see more than 100 humpback whales in one day.” – Ekaterina Kalashnikova, Marine Scientist and Operations & Commercial Manager at BCSS
Our experienced diving and marine operations manager, Mauro Jije, has an infectious passion for the ocean and conservation. Being at the heart of every-day marine activities at the station, he makes sure all expeditions are conducted safely, trains individuals to become skilled divers, and organises marine logistics. Throughout the years Mauro has inspired many visitors of the BCSS station to pursue a career in diving and marine science. To share more about our team member, we interviewed Mauro in September.
The Panama Cop19 became a ground-breaking event for shark conservation. A vast majority of countries voted to protect nearly 100 shark and ray species globally, including two families which make up for over half of the illegal fin trade. As numbers of sharks are steeply declining worldwide, enhanced regulation will hopefully reduce overfishing and the finning industry significantly.
”Sharks have pivotal functions in marine ecosystems, exerting top-down control in food webs. Large numbers of sharks in any given marine habitat means it has good health. It is really good news to have added protection to new shark species, which must translate into action and real protection in the ocean. To this end, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a good conservation management tool, which need solid data, and BCSS is on top of that in Mozambique.” –Dr. Mario Lebrato, Chief Scientist at BCSS
We are thrilled to announce new recreational diving expeditions in 2023. Our in-depth knowledge of the Bazaruto seascape and its unique multiple dive sites based on years of experience in the area, understanding of animals’ ecology (presence/absence, behaviour, migratory patterns, influential oceanographic parameters), and continuous scientific exploring, as well as access to professional expertise and technology, bringing diving experience to a different level – special, unique and memorable. Strategic location, expense optimisation, pelagic diving, hi-tech equipment – just to name few features that make us different. Stay tuned for further updates on that front.
Research of our in-house cetacean expert, Ekaterina Kalashnikova, was featured at the West Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA). Ekaterina has been collecting data on humpback whales along the East African coast for several years, focusing on Tanzania. The project aims to build a national ID catalogue, which after comparison with existing regional datasets for the connectivity evidence detection, may shed light on humpback whales’ ecology and habitat use, while enhancing local research capacities. At BCSS, Ekaterina aims to establish a humpback whale monitoring program in Mozambican waters linked to long-term environmental monitoring together with the regional leading specialists. The program aims to start engaging scientific participants during the 2023 migration season with BCSS being the host.
The video below is a compilation of our favourite marine life encounters in 2022. From humpback whales breaching and cruising up right next to our boat, to hammerhead sharks and even oceanic blacktip sharks. This year was filled with spectacular wildlife sightings!
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