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Vincent Pieribone, Co-CEO of OceanX, expressed his excitement for the mission: "We were excited to be invited back to the Azores to support and facilitate scientific research of the region's vital deep-sea marine ecosystems and further advance environmental policies to protect these waters. We hope exploration and documentation of the Azores' uncharted and biodiverse waters will raise awareness for and support conservation efforts in the region."
The mission leveraged OceanXplorer, a cutting-edge scientific research, media production, and exploration vessel. It surveyed unexplored seamounts and ridges in order to uncover their significance to ocean life in this seascape. The data gathered during this mission will serve to inform the Regional Government of the Azores in its decision-making process for protecting critical areas with high marine biodiversity as well as its goal of designating 30% of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as marine protected areas (MPA).
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In addition to exploring seamounts and ridges, OceanX supported Okeanos' research team in its investigation of hydrothermal vents, deep-sea coral communities, sponge aggregations, mobula rays, blue sharks, and whale sharks. This was made possible by OceanXplorer's state-of-the-art equipment which includes two manned Triton submersibles that can dive below 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) for up to eight hours; an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) that can operate up to 6,000 meters (19685 feet) below sea level; a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV); sonar array; eDNA; and genetic sequencing systems.
This is not OceanX's first mission in the Azores; they have been conducting research projects since 2021 with scientists from Okeanos that included multidisciplinary scientific research such as seafloor mapping; water column profiling; eDNA sampling; marine ecology; biology in shallow water habitats; etc., all with an aim of building a three-dimensional understanding of the ecosystem.
OceanX has made significant strides in ocean research in the Azores by supporting local scientists and organizations while facilitating a deeper understanding of oceans across Europe Union and globally. This mission is yet another example of their commitment towards gathering novel scientific research that benefits governments and policy-making entities when it comes to ocean conservation decision making.
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