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June 28, 2007

A complicated but interesting day

BY: Ricardo Aguilar



We’ve been taking samples in Emile Baudot. The ROV has gotten hooked twice: once on a rock and again on a longline.

The amount of ropes, fishing lines and nets that are scattered around here is incredible. Towards the south, between 140 and 160 meters depth, there are some large rocks, some of them forming interesting structures, where dozens of remnants of fishing tackle are caught, making it difficult to work with the ROV here.

On the other hand, the top of the seamount is beautiful. Here, there are large gorgonian forests. In the deeper areas there are hundreds of whip gorgonians (Viminella flagellum) and a few yellow tree corals (Dendrophyllia cornigera). We also find important concentrations of another gorgonian here that may be Muriceides lepida although this needs to be confirmed. We also find many small gorgonians measuring almost 10 centimeters that look like Bebryce mollis.

In the shallower areas, at around 90-100 meters depth, the forests are comprised mainly of Eunicella verrucosa and other species yet to be identified, apart from some Viminella flagelum.

The sea floor is mainly made up of coralline or rhodolites (but not the typical maërl) and huge sponge fields have colonized the area.

Amongst the rocks: bluemouth rockfish (Helicolenus dactylopterus), moray eels (Muraena helena), brown eels (Gymnthorax unicolor), greater forkbeards (Phycis phycis), scale-rayed wrasse (Acantolabrus palloni), cuckoo wrasse (Labrus bimaculatus), swallowtail seaperch (Anthias anthias), scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa), royal flagfins (Aulopus filamentosus), rainbow wrasse (Coris julis), lobsters (Palinurus elephas), etc.

Close to 140 meters depth, we’ve found large concentrations of

small tube anemones (Cerianthus lloydi) and common dead man’s hands (Alcyonium palmatun) and finger corals (Paralcyonium spinulosum) in another area.

Various triglids appear in sandy areas such as the streaked gurnard (Trigloporus lastoviza) and others that look like long-finned gurnards (Aspitrigla obscura) to us. One of them was clearly about to lay eggs. As well as sole (Solea sp.), sea cucumbers (Holothuria tubulosa), sea urchins (Cdaris cidaris and Echinus melo), etc.

Interestingly enough, we find a deep-sea crustacean, the Paramola cuvieri, at only 154 meters depth. And, apart from the two loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), I’m sure we’ll discover more species

when we review the tapes.

Last but not least, we’ve seen a lot of fishing activity in this area. In the morning we saw a few trawlers 3-4 miles away from the area, but also some longliners… Later we came across a tug boat hauling a cage of tunas. Then later, another tug boat, a large tuna seiner and, finally, an airplane flying over the area twice. Wasn’t it illegal to use airplanes to catch tunas??? Finally, the airplane headed towards Palma.

Tomorrow we’ll scan the area once more and then head towards Cabrera where we’ll continue our sampling of the south and western areas of the archipelago.