Seychelles President Danny Faure called on Sunday for the protection of “the beating blue heart of our planet” while diving deep into the Indian Ocean.

“This issue is bigger than all of us, and we cannot wait for the next generation to solve it. We are running out of excuses to not take action, and running out of time,” a statement released by the president’s office quoted him as saying.

Faure, who has made environmental protection a major priority, was taken down more than 120 meters in the submersible vehicle Ocean Zephyr, which is being used for a mission called “Nekton Deep Ocean Exploration.”

“I can see not only the incredible beauty of our ocean but the care that it urgently needs to stay this way. This is a historical moment for my country,” the president said of the 115-island archipelago.

The Nekton mission is to spend seven weeks studying underwater life, mapping the sea bed and placing captors at depths of up to 2,000 meters in the nation’s waters.

From next year, Seychelles plans to designate 30% of its marine surface as a protected zone.

The nation is particularly vulnerable to the destruction of coral reefs that comprise many of its smallest atolls.

“The deep ocean is the beating heart of the planet, yet we have better maps of planet Mars than we do of the ocean floor. This needs to change,” Faure noted.

Data collected by the Nekton mission, which is based in Oxford, England, is to be used during a summit of Indian Ocean nations in late 2021.

– with reporting by AFP