SALAS Y GÓMEZ & NAZCA RIDGES
Stretching across 2,900 km in the southeastern Pacific Ocean are the Salas y Gómez and Nazca Ridges — two seamount chains that shape the region and its inhabitants. Due to unique underwater geography and ocean currents, this region is a diversity hotspot with the highest rate of endemic marine species on Earth. Home to the deepest light-dependent reefs on Earth, the seamounts provide crucial habitats and migratory routes for 82 threatened and endangered species, as well as a plethora of other wildlife, including many that have only recently been discovered by western science. The region is also culturally significant, as Indigenous Pacific Islanders and others have recognized its importance for centuries.
If you would like to learn more about this region and the importance of establishing a MPA there, check out my campaign partners: High Seas Alliance and The Coral Reefs of the High Seas Coalition.
JUAN FERNÁNDEZ FUR SEAL
Second smallest of the fur seals and found only in this small corner of the world on Juan Fernández and Desventuradas Islands, the Juan Fernández fur seal is one of the many incredible endemic species found in the region. Driven to the edge of extinction by the fur trade, the species was believed to be extinct until the 1960s when a colony of 200 seals was found. The species has since grown to over 12,000 individuals and continues to thrive in the marine haven surrounding the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges.
Not much is known about the Juan Fernández fur seal. Like most eared seals, they exhibit significant sexual dimorphism. The females are lighter brown, 4’6” in length, and weigh ~100 pounds. The males are darker brown with gold tipped fur along their thick necks, 6’6” in length, and weigh ~300 pounds. From what has been observed of their behaviour, scientists believe they forage as far as 300 miles offshore, perhaps even farther, and will dive to depths between 30 and 300 feet looking for food. They are particularly fond of lanternfish and squid, both of which require agile hunting skills and the ability to dive to exceptional depths.
This project supports the work of the Coral Reefs of the High Seas Coalition, a group of policy, scientific, and legal experts dedicated to High Seas marine conservation. In addition to already published articles and educational material, they are working on publishing six more scientific papers before March 2022 highlighting the importance of the Salas y Gómez and Nazca Ridges. An expedition is also planned for February 2022, travel and health restrictions allowing, to further explore and better understand one of the most fascinating marine ecosystems on Earth. This research is critical for both the conservation and future protection of the region, but also of the Juan Fernández fur seal who relies on the surrounding habitat for food.
A special thank you to Dr. Daniel Wagner, a deep sea scientist with Conservation International and the Coral Reefs of the High Seas Coalition, for all of his help with research for this campaign.