A team of activists, divers and scientists on board Greenpeace’s iconic Arctic Sunrise have discovered a biodiversity haven on the Vema Seamount, 1 000km off the coast of Cape Town in the South-east Atlantic Ocean.
The return of this research expedition concludes the South African leg of the Pole-to-Pole ship tour which will continue in the South-west Atlantic before ending in the Antarctic.
Divers documented a kaleidoscope of underwater flora and fauna, including yellow-tailed mackerel, striped bream, various calcareous algae, soft coral and crustacean species that thrive in these oceanic ecosystems, ideal for their similarity to coastal regions.
Mount Vema rises from the seabed at 4600m to just 26m below the surface of the ocean.
The upper slopes and plateaus are covered in soft corals, seaweed and kelp forests, teeming with life.
According to Greenpeace the population of Tristan crayfish is of particular interest, having been fished to the brink of extinction twice in the past divers observed dozens of the spiny lobsters on Mount Vema.
The population is definitely showing signs of recovery.
Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner Bukelwa Nzimande said marine life in these unique areas is able to flourish and entire species recover, provided that the right measures are established and implemented.
She said this is why the creation of ocean sanctuaries through an instrument like the Global Oceans Treaty is not only necessary but critical.
Nzimande added that current protections are insufficient and poorly implemented, real action is needed to protect life in the oceans and further build resilience on a planet in crisis.
Abandoned fishing gear known widely as ghost gear, poses a major threat to living worlds like those on Mount Vema, and Greenpeace has been campaigning for consistent measures against ghost gear pollution in the oceans.
Greenpeace said lost or abandoned lobster cages, artefacts of destructive industrial overfishing still threaten Vema’s wildlife.
The team of divers on the Arctic Sunrise were able to retrieve one cage at a depth of about 35m no longer in use yet still a deadly trap for fish, crabs and other marine animals.
More: Cape Times