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Rolex champions marine protection in the Azores

Mission Blue, one of the pillars of Rolex’s Perpetual Planet initiative, ignited action to protect ocean ecosystems more than a decade ago.

Mission Blue, one of the pillars of Rolex’s Perpetual Planet initiative, ignited action to protect ocean ecosystems more than a decade ago.

As part of the initiative, it established more than 130 “Hope Spots” that are considered vital to preserving species or places where communities rely on the marine environment to survive, such as the Azores archipelago in Portugal.

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, a co-founder of Mission Blue, says: “The Azores archipelago is a magnet for life. It really is a magical place. Launching the Azores as a Hope Spot is so logical – just ask the whales.

“Like Rolex, I feel that we have to continue our efforts towards a Perpetual Planet so the marvels of the ocean in all its teeming diversity are not lost to future generations,” Earle, who has been a “Rolex Testimonee” since 1982, says. “Together we can make a difference.”

Protecting a deep-sea ecosystem

The Azores islands harbour an important ecosystem that attracts 25 species of cetaceans. Hundreds of species also thrive in the warmer waters delivered via a branch of the Gulf Stream. However, this ecosystem is under pressure from human activities.

The Azoreans are well aware of the importance of a marine environment and many are involved in ecotourism.

The authorities established several small Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the 1980s and announced the Blue Azores programme in 2019. The programme aims to create a network of fully protected MPAs covering 15 per cent of the Azorean side of the North Atlantic Ocean.

They are also developing innovative studies and approaches which contribute to the sustainable management of fisheries, supporting scientific processes and implementing a “blue literacy” programme for schools.

Mission Blue’s Hope Spot council reviewed these efforts, as well as the scientific research of Hope Spot Champions, and concluded that the policy momentum is strong and the time appropriate to designate the Azores as a Hope Spot.

Rolex champions marine protection in the Azores

“The Azores Archipelago was named a Hope Spot in recognition of the collaborative efforts of the government, University of the Azores, organisations and community members. Together, they are working to achieve increased marine protection and a growing comprehensive network of protected areas that extend from the surface of the sea all the way down to the deep seafloor,” Earle said.

The aim is to contribute to Portugal’s and Mission Blue’s efforts to reach the international goal of protecting 30 per cent of oceans by 2030. Mission Blue’s work is long-term and is achieved through policy advocacy, communications campaigns and regular oceanic expeditions that build support for the protection of ecosystems.

Each Hope Spot has a “champion” who is involved in conservation and coordinates action in the area by meeting government and business leaders, running advocacy events and working with young people.

“The inclusion of the Azores as a Hope Spot is a significant step in our mission to promote the protection of this unique place,” Azores Hope Spot champion Christopher Pham says.

Rolex champions marine protection in the Azores

The Azores and its Champions will now have higher visibility on the global ocean conservation stage, allowing them to renew the call for enhanced marine conservation ahead of the 2030 deadline.

In support of ocean conservation

Rolex is also helping to protect oceans through a variety of partnerships and grants including individuals such as Rolex Awards Laureates Barbara Block, Vreni Häussermann and Brad Norman, as well as Rolex Awards Associate Laureate Emma Camp and global networks of marine scientists.

The company is also partnering with the Monaco Blue Initiative that brings together experts, policymakers and business entrepreneurs along with local and international NGOs, to discuss and highlight solutions to challenges of ocean management and conservation.

Moreover, it has supported individual expeditions such as “Under The Pole III”. The team has been exploring the oceans since 2017 to study the mesophotic coral ecosystems that exist between 30 and 150 metres and advance underwater exploration techniques.

Published : January 12, 2022