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Dr. Mercedes Santos conserving Antarctica

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Conserving Antarctica with scientist Dr. Mercedes Santos

Pelorus supports crucial research in some of the world’s most remote destinations by pairing scientists and conservationists with our private yacht expeditions. One of those was biologist Dr. Mercedes Santos who recently traveled to Antarctica on a Pelorus client yacht expedition.

With teeming seas home to everything from whales to microscopic phytoplankton, Antarctica is thriving, but this ecosystem is also at severe risk from the threat of climate change. A researcher from the Argentinean Antarctic Institute, Santos is currently on license working as the National Director of Marine Protected areas—a joint Argentine-Chilean initiative to convert around 260,000 square miles of the Antarctic Peninsula into a Marine Protected Area.

Santos came aboard a recent Pelorus client yacht expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula, with the vessel providing a superb base from which she could pursue her research. Megan Williams from the Pelorus Foundation spoke with Santos to learn about her trip and the essential conservation work that it represented.

Travelling to Antarctica with Pelorus

With stints in Antarctica usually stretching to three or four months, Santos enjoyed the comparison of seeing just how much could be done on a shorter private yacht charter. Besides checking cameras and recording a breeding site, this journey offered Santos the chance to spread awareness of the Marine Protected Area she is working hard to establish in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Chinstrap penguins in Antarctica Chinstrap penguin close up in Antarctica
Penguin colony in Antarctica Seal in Antarctica

What is a Marine Protected Area?

“This is a proposal Argentina is working on together with Chile and it’s being discussed in CCAMLR which is The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. To adopt the MPA (Marine Protected Area) you need consensus from every country part of the CCAMLR so it’s quite the challenge. We have been working on this since 2012 and it’s come a long way but still, we don’t have an MPA – but it’s necessary to keep trying.”

Twenty-five countries, including the European Union, are working together on this objective. The MPA is intended to alleviate the stress on the ecosystem and, subsequently, the wildlife, with the hope that this will enable greater adaptability and resilience in the face of climate change. Research indicates that the Antarctic Peninsula is a stress point for climate change on the continent, as well as being the site of the largest krill fishery.

An element of Santos and her team’s research involves the breeding and feeding ecology of Antarctic penguins with a focus on chinstrap, gentoos, and Adélies. While gentoos are proving resilient and adaptable, the other species are not, with populations declining between 40 and 70 percent due to the impact of climate change. This is one reason why Santos’ research is so vital.

Mercedes Santos conserving Antarctica

“We want to build resilience, to protect biodiversity and to have a strong research plan that can track and follow the changes of fishing activity. If we do not have a better understanding now of the effect then, in time, it’s going to be more difficult, so it’s better to understand this now – sooner rather than later.” 

DR. MERCEDES SANTOS
National Director of Marine Protected Areas of Argentina

Why the relationship between luxury travel and scientific research is so important

While scientific research is happening all the time, it is expensive and logistically challenging. “Particularly last year it has been very difficult to put the people on the ground in Antarctica to do the research.” As such, the support of tour operators like Pelorus is extremely beneficial, offering scientists like Santos the chance to carry out their vital research. From the other perspective, Pelorus’ guests can have a first-hand role in world-transforming discoveries—a truly profound opportunity.

Antarctic yacht expedition conservation

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT COMBINING CONSERVATION WITH YOUR TRIP

Explore tailor-made Antarctic yacht expeditions with Pelorus and discover how you could support scientists in their research and learn more about the crucial conservation work happening on the southern continent.

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