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MAR-ECO Second International Workshop

MAR-ECO – the project to explore the macrofauna of the northern mid-Atlantic moves from the planning to the field phase - will hold its second workshop in Bergen, 11-13 January 2003.

Increasing interest is being focused on regions of the world’s oceans because there are strong economic forces that are driving commercial interests towards finding new fisheries to exploit. Before extensive fishing gets underway, with the possibility that this may bring for irreparably damaging existing ecosystems in the deep oceans, researchers would like to have the opportunity to learn more about them. Better knowledge is critically important if we are to manage the deep ocean resources in a sustainable way.

The MAR-ECO project will address this issue for the deep waters of the northern mid-Atlantic. It began in late 2001with the establishment of an international steering committee. It is part of a 10-year global initiative to learn more about life in the oceans. This initiative is entitled the Census of Marine Life. Norway has assumed the secretarial duties for the MAR-ECO project, and the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and the University of Bergen (UiB) are collaborating in this responsibility.

From planning to field phase

The project is now completing its planning phase and moving into its field phase. International teams of researchers have been assembled to address different questions relating to the biodiversity of the northern mid-Atlantic ocean. International teams of technology experts have also been working to design equipment that will overcome some of the physical challenges of exploring the deep ocean. Information experts have been developing solutions for disseminating the results of this unique exploration opportunity to the general public.

Exploring the deep ocean is not easy. Indeed, overcoming the difficulties in trying to conduct observations and measurements in distant locations at great depths, and in areas of rugged terrain, is a major challenge for the MAR-ECO project. To overcome these hurdles researchers plans to develop, adapt and utilise the latest remote sensing technology (acoustics, optics) to use in addition to the more traditional sampling and observation methods. The instruments will be carried on advanced instrument carriers (such as towed vehicles, ROVs, AUVs etc.). Many different international technology companies are working in collaboration with researchers to develop state-of-the-art equipment that will overcome the deep water challenges. Thus, in addition to the project’s ultimate contribution to our biological understanding of the deep Atlantic, it will also make key contributions in terms of testing and developing new technological approaches, which can be used in a number of other applications.

Second Workshop

This year's workshop's programme reflects that the project is approaching the end of its planning phase. The discussions, both in plenary and group sessions, will focus on practical issues relating to the work of the field phase. The scientific plans and descriptions of component projects are available on project's web site (www.mar-eco.no). Public Outreach initiatives are also coming along including plans for a full-length documentary and a collaborative initiative with Norweigan artist Ørnult Opdahl.

A major task for the workshop will be cruise planning including the two-month cruise during the summer 2004 on the Norwegian state-of-the-art research vessel, the G.O. Sars, which will be launched during the spring of 2003. Preliminary plans for this cruise can be found on the project's web site.

Members of the press are invited to attend an informal presentation by some of the key participants in Scandic Hotel, at 11:30, Monday 13 January.

A series of "one-pagers" about different aspects of the project are also available. Please contact one of the following for further information:
Elinor Bartle, elinor.bartle@form.uib.no, 55 58 31 80
Odd Aksel Bergstad, oddaksel@imr.no , 37 05 90 19
Jo Høyer, Jo.Hoyer@imr.no, 55 23 85 21

 

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