Photograph by Enric Sala
Some 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Baja California lies the Revillagigedo Archipelago, which consists of four islands of volcanic origin: Socorro, Clarion, San Benedicto, and Roca Partida. Since 1994, they have been declared a Mexican biosphere reserve, but only six nautical miles around the islands are protected. The rest of the waters of the archipelago are subject to industrial and sport fishing, mostly targeting large ocean predators. The islands contain one of the largest aggregations of sharks and manta rays in the world, as well as tuna, humpback whales, and five species of sea turtles. In March of 2016, partnering with Mares Mexicanos, the Pristine Seas team conducted an expedition to explore the waters around the small reserve—including never-before-surveyed seamounts—to provide information on the expansion of the existing marine reserve, which many consider to be the “Galápagos of Mexico.” To improve the understanding of how the entire ecosystem of the archipelago works, the team used the “DeepSee” submersible, remote drop and stereo pelagic cameras, scuba diving transects, and drone cameras to explore, scientifically survey, and record the environment around the archipelago. They looked at algae and other bottom-dwelling creatures, counting and measuring large invertebrates, and surveying the fish on the reef.
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