Prince of Monaco finances search for new marine species in Madeira

A €70 million superyacht has docked in Madeira to embark on a royal search for new marine species.

The Yersin – a boat commissioned by a French multi-millionaire with a boyhood passion for the comic-strip adventures of Tintin – is carrying a team of scientists ready to study uncharted marine caves.

The expedition is financed by Prince Albert of Monaco, great grandson of the 19th century royal oceanographer and conservationist of the same name.

Monaco Explorations was launched in July, with the first stop in Macronesia, off the west coast of Africa, taking in Madeira’s Desertas islands.

The overall plan is to travel the world for the next three years, researching little-known areas and seeking out new forms of life.

As Prince Albert said on the eve of World Oceans Day in June: “The greatest ills the oceans suffer are the result of our ignorance…The ocean depths are in large part unexplored, the intermediate areas almost ignored, marine biodiversity is widely misunderstood. We struggle to identify the multiple threats and effects, whether it is about the acidification of the oceans, about pollution, particularly plastics, or about the weakening of some ecosystems, which are upsetting the balances of our seas”.

It can be nothing short of fortuitous that the Yersin arrived in Madeiran waters just as Portugal has embarked on plans to expand the country’s continental platform by 3.9 million sq kms and generate a new era of what it dubs Portugal’s “Blue economy”.

The Blue economy will embrace multiple projects, a number of them connected to the exploration of hydrocarbons (natural gas/ oil) and minerals – otherwise known as deep-sea mining.

As one of Monaco Explorations’ heroines marine biologist Dr Sylvia Earle has warned, deep sea mining could open the doors to a form of “wholesale destruction” of the very systems “that support human survival” (click here).

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