The Mirpuri Foundation is organizing a scientific expedition that embarked on a study of the biodiversity in the seas around Cape Verde and that has already identified new genus and species.

The aim of the expedition is to enhance scientific knowledge of the fauna and marine life around the Cape Verde islands. 

The research trip, on the island of Sal, that started in July, is being led by renowned Professor Jesús Ortea, who has been responsible for the discovery of 812 new marine species and has taken part in 26 previous research missions. President Paulo Mirpuri was onboard the first departure, along with his brother Luís Mirpuri.

Professor Ortea’s team have already discovered one new genus of marine species on the current expedition, naming it Mirpurina, in tribute to the Mirpuri Foundation’s support of the mission, and several species of this genus have now been identified.

On a previous dive last year, Professor Ortea discovered another new bright and colourful species that he named Mexichromis paulomirpuri, in honour of Mirpuri Foundation  founder and president Paulo Mirpuri.

The expedition will be followed up with a conference to showcase the results of the trap as well as the publication of a book on the marine life of Cape Verde. It will be an illustrated inventory of the species currently present in the archipelago.

A documentary film of the trip will also be released showing the great diversity of Cape Verdean sea species. The film will focus on the scientific aspects of the voyage but will also aim to show the beauty and variety of underwater life and highlight the importance of their conservation.

The findings from the study of marine biodiversity around the islands should help with important work to protect key habitats and marine ecosystems. The information gathered will be used to help with education programs and should raise awareness on more general issues such as pollution and overfishing in the area.

Professor Ortea fears that marine ecosystems are effectively being crushed with the global construction of promenades, marinas, and artificial beaches and has previously warned that millions of marine species are threatened with extinction by humans.

Dr Emílio Soler, who is responsible for the Algae Species Survey Project, element of the expedition, has warned of  presence of toxic microalgae in the seas, explaining that is already affecting the area, potentially posing a threat to human health.

Following the Mirpuri Foundation team as they went about their work was experienced cameraman and documentary maker, Rafael Herrera, probably best known for his work on David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series, a programme credited with opening the eyes of the international public to marine conservation issues.

Mirpuri Foundation President, Paulo Mirpuri said: “Marine conservation has been one of the key pillars on which we have built the Mirpuri Foundation. We are delighted to have lent our support to this important scientific project. We are confident that Professor Ortea and his team, made up of some of the leading authorities on marine biodiversity, their findings of creatures and fauna previously unknown or uncategorized by mankind, as well as the planned book and documentary, will further assist the Mirpuri Foundation as we strive to build a better world for all of our children.”

In support of the expedition, the Mirpuri Foundation has also organised a Science Workshop with teachers and students from the Island of Sal.

This session has explained the goals and key findings of the exhibition, and was a great success, particularly with the children in the area, who enthusiastically joined the session, even suggesting names for new species discovered. 

Local logistics were handled by Manta Diving, a company well known for its efforts in environmental protection. The company has previously sunk two boats to create the first artificial reefs in Cape Verde, one of which is already the second most biodiverse reef in the bay of Santa Maria.

In a world where many scientists predict natural coral reefs may have vanished by 2050, this small diving centre has led by example and is working hard to prove that ocean regeneration and conservation is possible.

The Cape Verde Islands (known locally as Cabo Verde, the Green Cape) lie just off the coast of Senegal in West Africa.

Meet The Team:

Dr. Jesús Ortea

A Doctor of Biological Sciences. Professor of Zoology and Deputy Researcher of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment, attached to the Institute of Oceanology in Cuba. He specialises in mollusks and marine ecosystems and is the author of 727 research papers. He has participated in research projects in Cuba, the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Ecuador, Morocco, Venezuela, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Dr. Leopoldo Moro Abad

A biologist specialising in the conservation of marine biodiversity, he graduated in Biological Sciences and Zoology, and has been exploring marine fauna around the Canary Islands since 1994. He has extended his research into the archipelago of Cape Verde, Madeira and the Azores, as well as the African coast, Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. His studies concentrate on the taxonomic inventory of marine slugs. 


Dr. Rui Freitas

Graduated in Marine Biology and Fisheries and holds a Master’s Degree in Marine Resources and Coastal Management. He has been dedicated to marine research with a focus on coastal ecology and marine protection, but more recently has concentrated his research on the biodiversity of the coastal fish and fauna of Cape Verde.


Dr. José Espinosa Sáez

Hold a PhD in Biological Sciences and is a specialist in mollusks and marine ecosystems. An author of more than 150 scientific articles and of several natural history books in the field of fauna, José has led or participated in several research projects in Cuba, the Canary Islands, Costa Rica, and Mexico.


Dr. Juan Fernández-Zabala

Studied Biology and Biochemistry and has a Master’s Degree in Biotechnology. He has been working at the Spanish Seaweed Bank (BEA) as a flow cytometry technician and is currently participating in monitoring campaigns in the Canary Islands for BHAB risk assessment. The central theme of his research is the flowering ecology dynamics of the BHAB dinoflagellates in the region of Macaronesia.


Dr. Emilio Soler

Emilio Soler Onís, Ph.D. in Marine Sciences and Master in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is accredited by IOC-UNESCO (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO) as an expert on identification Potentially Harmful Algae. Taxonomist and researcher at the Spanish Algae Bank since 2003, with 30 years of experience in the field of Marine Botany, where he has developed his scientific work with more than 45 publications on red algae, Coralinaceae, deep seaweed, cyanobacteria, Diatoms, Dinoflagellates, Paleoclimate, and HABs. He develops his work in the fields of taxonomy, microscopy Optics, and scanning electronics, monitoring HABs climate change and marine biodiversity. Awarded recently with the “Maureen Keller Student Presentation Awards” by the ISSHA ( International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae), with the best presentation in the ICHA 2018. He is a member of the Spanish Society of Ficology (SEF) and the ISSHA (International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae).

Rafael Herrero Massieu

Director and Underwater Cameraman. Since 1994 he has been the Director of Aquawork, a production company specialising in underwater documentaries. A professional diver, dive instructor, and CCR diver. In 2018 received a Bafta award for episode IV of the BBC series Blue Planet II.

Nuno Marques da Silva

He began his career as a diving instructor in 1983 and started his work in Cape Verde in 1989. He promoted the creation of the first two Artificial Reefs in Cape Verde.


Special thanks to Hi Fly Airline and Safeport Cape Verde Business Aviation Center.

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