Earlier this year, an expedition voyaging deep into the waters of the Antarctic discovered new life at the bottom of the ocean.
State-of-the-art technology was deployed over the three weeks to survey a previously unexplored region of the ocean that only became accessible due to a massive iceberg collapsing off the main body of the ice shelf and falling into the ocean. This reduced the mass of the ice shelf by around 12%.
The iceberg, designated A-68, weighed a trillion tonnes and covered an area of nearly 6,000 square kilometres. The newly exposed seabed covers 2,200 square miles and contains life that only exists in this ecosystem.
The new Antarctic expedition was led by the British Antarctic Survey, carrying a team of scientists who collected samples of microbes, sediment and animals. Despite the cold temperatures of the water, the Antarctic is home to a wide variety of life and has a complex and thriving ecosystem. But what does this Antarctic exploration mean for the Marine sector?
What Antarctic Exploration Means for The Marine Industry
Antarctica is the only place on earth that is not owned by anyone. There is also no military presence on the continent and no native peoples populate it. Antarctica is almost entirely untouched by mankind, and plays a vital role in the regulation of the climate across the entire planet. There is a ban on mining in Antarctica that lasts until 2048, as any destabilisation of the region could have catastrophic consequences.
It’s important for the Marine industry to maintain this level of Antarctic protection. As one of the most powerful and influential industries in the world, and one so intrinsically linked to the environment surrounding the Antarctic, the Marine sector can help protect the last untouched region on the planet.
The Antarctic holds the potential for important discoveries about how climate operates at the very deepest level, but only if the environment remains stable. Currently, only 3.7% of the world’s oceans are protected, leaving species vulnerable to overfishing and ecosystems vulnerable to Marine pollution.
Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing has a direct impact on the ecosystem, and the decimation of the krill population can impact the wider food chain. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources is responsible for the conservation of Antarctic waters and have recently had meetings to discuss options moving into the future.
One problem is tourism. Antarctic tourism or eco-tourism is gaining in popularity, polluting the water. There are now tens of thousands of tourists visiting every year and French and US companies are planning on building luxury cruisers, bringing more people to the region and ramping up Antarctic tourism into big business. Increased Antarctic tourism would impact local wildlife, as well as polluting the waters, having an irreversible impact on the environment.
Lastly, the Antarctic is vital in reducing carbon, locking it away in deep-sea sediment. Due to the cold waters, there is a rapid sinking effect when carbon is absorbed into the water, sending it to the bottom of the ocean. If the temperature level or acidity of the water rises too high, our ability to limit the amount of carbon escaping into the atmosphere will be diminished, drastically worsening the greenhouse effect.
Learn more about how Marine travel has changed, or how the superyacht industry will change over the next decade.