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Seamounts are large underwater mountains, generally of volcanic origin, that rise from the ocean floor. They can arise along mid-ocean ridges, as isolated landmarks or as volcanoes in chains and clusters. Seamounts constitute hotspots of marine biodiversity, as they provide hard foundations for deep-sea life to settle on and grow. In addition, seamounts rising into the ocean create obstacles that shape ocean currents and direct deep, nutrient-rich waters up the sloping sides of seamounts to the surface. These factors combine to make seamounts fertile habitats for diverse communities of marine life, including sponges, crabs, sea anemones, commercially important fish, and deep-sea corals. Such hotspots serve as spawning sites for many species and marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. Moreover, large predators such as sharks rely on them to feed and rest during migrations.

Seamounts can be found throughout the world's oceans. Estimation of their number varies from tenths of thousands to a million of such geological formations, depending on the exact definition that is adopted. However, of all Earth's seamounts, only a few hundred have been studied. As often stated by oceanographers, humans know more about the topography of Mars and the Moon than we do about the ocean floor.

Today seamount biodiversity and ecosystems face an increasing number of threats, including deep sea bottom fishing and deep sea mining. In this context Blancpain together with Laurent Ballesta and his Gombessa team are working on an exploration program to raise the public's awareness of these crucial hotspots for ocean health, food security, medicine and other benefits that oceans provide to humans.

La Pérouse Expedition

From more than 5,000 meters, the depth changes abruptly to just a few dozen metres: this is Mont La Pérouse, an underwater mountain, 160 km northwest of Reunion Island, born from the entrails of the Earth and whose size is comparable to that of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. This geological structure is well known to Reunionese longliners who regularly carry out miraculous fishing operations there. However, for oceanographers, the area remains a real enigma. With Blancpain's support, Laurent Ballesta together with local researchers and part of his Gombessa team led an expedition in November 2019 to study, characterize and illustrate the exceptional biodiversity of the La Pérouse Seamount.