Can a place 3,000 feet deep, dark and cold be a hot spot of biodiversity? Yes, it can! In fact, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has included four such sites in their Lebanon’s marine protected area strategy , and the reason why we’re talking about them here is because it’s a proposal by Oceana!
Do you remember Oceana MedNet? This project is the first comprehensive network of marine protected areas that details specific locations in the Mediterranean. We call it comprehensive because it also includes off-shore areas (among other reasons), four of which are included in IUCN’s strategy, and which we proposed because of their rich biodiversity.
To name just a few iconic species, the Sour Canyon is a spawning area for bluefin tuna and home to endangered loggerhead and green turtles. The Beirut Escarpment and the Saint Georges and Junieh canyons are nursery areas of the common guitarfish –sadly an endangered species despite its name, which has already vanished from many areas of the Mediterranean.
Even if our knowledge of the deep sea is smaller than what we know of the nearby, colourful shallow waters, the future of many important species is often at the bottom of the oceans. And we just need a precautionary approach to safeguard it. Creating one large off-shore protected area or four smaller ones, as the IUCN proposes in Lebanon, is a great initiative and we at Oceana are happy to have contributed to it!