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At Sea: March to April 2022
Country: Colombia

The Place

Offshore Pacific 

Located off the western coast of Colombia, the offshore Pacific has several underwater ridges resulting from merging tectonic plates on the ocean floor. Research suggests that these submarine ridges in the offshore Pacific are critical for marine life and diversity. Additional research is needed to assess the little known deep sea biodiversity of the region, and understand how these submerged geological features affect the ecological connectivity of sharks and other pelagic species in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor.

Northern Chocó 

The Chocó department in north western Colombia is part of a global biodiversity hotspot and one of the rainiest places on Earth. Its remoteness and isolation from the rest of the country, alongside the stewardship from local Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities, have contributed to keeping the region’s mangrove forests and tropical rainforests as some of the best conserved in Latin America. At the heart of the Chocó, the Gulf of Tribugá holds an impressive variety of marine ecosystems, including mangrove forests, estuaries, rocky reefs, seamounts, canyons, and productive pelagic waters. These underexplored habitats support vibrant marine life including southern humpback whales that come to breed and nurse their young, and an annual sardine run that makes the gulf boil with tuna, billfish, dolphins, sharks. The ecological connections between the region’s marine habitats, and the underexplored deep sea offer unique research opportunities.  

Northern Seaflower 

The remote reefs in the northernmost region of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve are under-explored areas with some of the best preserved coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea. These reefs are suspected to be essential enclaves of marine biodiversity, providing critical sources of larvae that sustain the nearby reefs of the Colombian Archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia. Moreover, research suggests that these reefs hold one of the highest densities of reef sharks in the entire Caribbean, making them one of the last refugia for these critical but depleted species and a priority for protection.

The Mission

In November 2021, President Iván Duque of Colombia announced his commitment to protect an additional 160,000 square kilometers of ocean area, as part of his pledge to protect 30 percent of the country’s land and ocean by 2022. To help support this pledge, National Geographic Pristine Seas will partner with Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Colombian Ocean Commission, and a number of local partners to conduct an expedition to three regions in Colombia during March and April 2022. 

The expedition's main objectives are to conduct scientific research to support the designation of the new marine protected areas in Colombia’s waters, and to produce a National Geographic documentary to showcase Colombia’s marine biodiversity, the importance of the ocean for the wellbeing of local communities, and Colombia’s ocean conservation vision. 

The scientific research will focus on filling knowledge gaps, addressing the goals of local communities, and complementing the work of other national institutions. National Geographic Pristine Seas and local partners will assess the marine ecosystems from the surface to the deep sea, from nearshore to offshore.