Actor Javier Bardem, speaks to several politicians about an EU-proposal to implement a sanctuary in the Antarctic Ocean at a parliamentarian breakfast in Berlin. Dr Maria Flachsbarth, State Secretary and Seppo Nurmi, Representative from the EU Commission DG-Mare, attended the function.
© Lucas Wahl / Greenpeace

BERLIN, Feb. 20, 2018 – A Greenpeace expedition to the Antarctic seafloor, including an area never before visited by humans, has found sensitive marine ecosystems featuring sponges, corals, basket stars and sea feathers. Scientists, campaigners and Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem, traveled to the seabed in a research submarine to film rare footage, which was shown in Berlin today with Bardem in attendance.

The event came on the same day that Stranger Things actor David Harbour fulfilled his promise to the internet to dance with penguins in the Antarctic aboard the Greenpeace expedition, after a viral Twitter challenge. Greenpeace has today released video footage of the ‘Dance of the Penguins’.

Greenpeace is in the Antarctic on a three month expedition to gather evidence to support an EU proposal, initiated by the German Government, to set up an ocean sanctuary covering 695,000 square miles. It would be the largest protected area on Earth.

The findings from the submarine dives will identify areas that should receive local protection, as well as contributing to a body of evidence that will be submitted in support of a network of ocean sanctuaries in the Antarctic. In October, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will decide on the proposal from the EU.

Greenpeace marine biologist and submarine pilot John Hocevar, who conducted scientific research on board the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise, said:

“This footage underscores the importance of marine protected areas in the Antarctic. The US Government was instrumental in protecting the Ross Sea, and can play an important role in  advocating for the creation of a network of Antarctic sanctuaries, especially with states that could potentially block it.”

Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem made a two-hour submarine dive to the seabed near the Antarctic Peninsula. He is committed to protecting this valuable and sensitive ecosystem from damage caused by human activity.

Javier Bardem said:

“There is so much life on the ocean floor. I would not have expected that in these waters. This biodiversity must be protected with a sanctuary!”

The expedition research team, led by benthic ecologist and Antarctic expert Dr. Susanne Lockhart (California Academy of Sciences) explored the seafloor in the northern part of the Weddell Sea and west of the Antarctic Peninsula. During eight dives, the team collected high-resolution video footage and samples that will be examined in the coming months and submitted to CCAMLR.

Dr. Susanne Lockhart said:

“At some of the dive sites, the habitat structure and marine fauna suggest the presence of so-called ‘vulnerable marine ecosystems’ (VMEs). The diversity and abundance of critical invertebrates are exceptionally high in these places. Many of these organisms form complex, three-dimensional structures on the seabed, which in turn provide a habitat and protection for other species, like the Antarctic ice fish. Such dense, slow-growing communities are considered to be particularly sensitive to man-made disturbance, such as industrial fishing.”

The Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise is on a three-month expedition to the Antarctic to carry out scientific research, including seafloor submarine dives and sampling for plastic pollution, to highlight the urgent need for the creation of the world’s largest protected area to safeguard fragile Antarctic ecosystems.

The proposal for an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary has been submitted by the EU and will be considered when CCAMLR next convenes, in October 2018.

Key findings from the footage gathered from the submarine dives will be shared with the Commission to establish localized protections as well as to strengthen this and other upcoming proposals for marine protection in the Antarctic.