For their expedition to Clipperton, conducted in partnership with the University of French Polynesia, the Pristine Seas team packed an impressive array of state-of-the-art tools and equipment. Among the items on their checklist: dive and camera gear, drop cameras, pelagic cameras, underwater video stations, science sampling kits, shark and tuna tagging gear—and a three-person submarine.
Traveling a thousand kilometers from the coast of Mexico, they set out to better understand the island’s reefs, unexplored deep waters, and surrounding seamounts. After 140 scuba dives, 14 submarine dives, 58 remote camera deployments, a five-day land survey, and a two-day snorkeling study of the lagoon algae, the team achieved a comprehensive assessment of the ecosystem. Over the course of the expedition, the team shot hundreds of hours of underwater and topside footage for a documentary film. Their scientific findings supported the creation of a marine reserve, announced at the September 2016 Our Ocean conference in Washington, D.C., that encompasses Clipperton’s territorial waters.
Clipperton’s waters, they found, are teeming with life. A high degree of coral cover, a strong population of sharks, exceedingly brave moray eels, and an abundance of endemic fishes all indicate a vibrant ecosystem. Yet even at this far-flung outpost, free of human activity for a century, the team noted clear evidence of fishing pressure, including a large number of fishing lines and disproportionately juvenile sharks.