Diving Deep into Ocean Devotion Madeira: Saving Marine Life from Deep-Sea Mining (Art for Advocacy)
Updated: Apr 13
Following other petitions that have already been supported nationally and internationally on this subject, Ocean Devotion Madeira, a volunteer group of young leaders working for ocean conservation and literacy, have had launch a regional petition in February this year for a moratorium on mining exploration in the deep sea of Madeira. Our Art Center Caravel has the art installation “HOPE" on exhibit! Using some of the creatures inhabiting this still undiscovered ecosystem (among the most curious and interesting of the marine environment), artist Eunice Pereira (@nicebeingart) created this piece, which symbolizes the goal to protect the deep sea from new threats (such as mining).
We had the honor to have an interview with the co-founder of Ocean Devotion Madeira, Annalisa Sambolino who is a bachelor in Biological Sciences and Master in Biological Monitoring, both obtained at the University of Genova, Italy.
1. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your role in Ocean Devotion Madeira?
My name is Annalisa, I was born in Italy 31 years ago and I arrived in Madeira 6 years ago, pursuing a career in marine biology. I am now in the last year of my PhD, and 3 years ago, together with two other friends (also marine biologists) we created Ocean Devotion Madeira, a regional hub from a bigger organization called “Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA)”. My role in the group is as member’s coordinator, but actually we all help and contribute in all the different tasks.
We created this project with the main idea of promoting education and raise awareness about marine environmental issues. During these years we managed to get some funding to create environmental projects with the purpose of protecting our Ocean.
2. Could you share with us the prominent activities and initiatives that the organization spearheads in their tireless efforts to safeguard the ocean and its denizens?
In these years we grew quite a lot: now we are 5 "Hub Leaders", all of us are marine biologists working in different fields and we all together are working hard during our free time (it's all voluntary work!) to create new projects and initiatives with an environmental positive impact in our community and protect marine life. As examples, in the past 3 years we had a project to promote the use of reusable cups in bar and events in Madeira, one to mitigate the by-catch and mortality of sea turtles that were accidentally caught by long-line black scabbard fishery and another one to create a network, or better an "affinity" in our community of people working in the sea of Madeira to provide and share information to protect the monk seal, a highly threaten species inhabiting Madeiran waters. More recently we created and promoted a petition to ask for a moratorium on deep-sea mining in the autonomous region of Madeira. Besides that we also used to collaborate with several other ONG and groups to organize beach clean-ups and similar actions.
3. As we dive deeper into the impressive efforts of Ocean Devotion Madeira, could you shed some light on the impact that the organization has already made and maybe some insights into the future prospects and plans that Ocean Devotion Madeira has?
Right now we are still giving continuity to some of these projects that I mentioned and we have some other ideas in mind for this next year, you can follow us on our Instagram and Facebook pages to keep updated about all the next initiatives: just look for "Ocean Devotion Madeira". Also if anyone wants to be part of our community and help in any of our projects, can become a "volunteer member" just by filling in the form you can find on our social pages or contacting us :)
4. Could you elaborate on the petition that the organization has created for a moratorium on deep-sea mining in Madeira? What inspired the team at Ocean Devotion to undertake this challenging yet essential initiative for the betterment of our oceans?
Well, I can say that our main motivation/or was Ge (Eugenia Barroca). She's a good friend of ours and she’s also the regional representative of SOA in Portugal (and in the all "Lusofonia" regions). She told us a lot about the campaign that SOA has been pursuing against deep-sea mining and about other similar movements that are happening all around the world. Many environmental organizations and many countries are really worried about the idea of deep-sea mining starting on a commercial scale, and we got very worried as well. But apparently in Portugal, and especially in Madeira, no one even talks about it. And in the meanwhile the commercial companies are on the move, and are about to get a regulamentation to be able to start the extraction of minerals from the deep-sea floor on a commercial scale, without any robust research done to understand if and how this will affect the deep-sea community and all the oceanic environment. If we don't do anything we may have to face another global environmental catastrophe. And we just can't afford another one.
5. Could you provide us with some insights into the dangers that deep-sea mining poses to our fragile marine ecosystem?
The most obvious and direct impact is the destruction of the sea-floor and its associated species. We still didn't even explore 5% of the all oceans and almost nothing in the deep sea, but the little we saw is that there is a lot more life we could have imagined (ex. deep-sea corals!), with species unique to that environment that established interactions with the rest of ecosystem through mechanisms that we still didn't fully uncover. Destroying without even knowing what, it is pure madness (from the point of view of a biologist, at least!)! Another impact that has already been demonstrated it's the formation of sediment "plumes", that can extend for kilometers above and beyond the licensed area and can literally "suffocate" marine life, depriving the environment of light and oxygen. More potential impacts have already been described, such as noise pollution, which could interfere with communication and hunting in groups of cetaceans and eventually be a cause of population decline.
6. How did the Ocean Devotion Madeira use art and performance to raise awareness about deep-sea mining?
We thought that the best way to get to people and have the possibility to talk to them was to organize a cultural event. Because people love art, music and theatre, and we do love it too! The luck of living in a small island is that it is easy to know the right people. We organized this event to promote the petition in a bar that is very popular and known for organizing some of the best cultural events in Funchal (Barreirinha Bar Café). Also we involved two great professionals (and friends): an actor and performer (Marco Lima aka Desvio) who took the challenge of representing our idea with a performance, together with the students of his theater's school, and an artist (Eunice - The art of being NICE), that created this beautiful art piece called "HOPE". We also had a videographer, a photographer and several musicians. It was a great show, filled with different arts and music.
7. What has been the response to the petition and the Ocean Devotion Project's campaign to stop deep-sea mining in Madeira so far?
The attendance to the event was more than we expected and we collected quite a few signatures already, but we still have a lot to go (we need to get to 1500) and not much time left… In July there will be a global meeting to decide about the regulamentation and the official start of the activity. I hope that our politicians will understand that we are very concerned about the possible consequences this will have in our world and that the youth are united in spreading the word and raising awareness about this, because it will affect us all.
We thank Annalisa for this interview and after reading it, we kindly hope and encourage you to join the team in the fight to protect our oceans! Sign the petition and help in saving the marine life that calls these depths home.
Together, we can make a difference and ensure a sustainable future for our planet.