UPDATE 17/11-2020 – Victory: Spanish Supreme Court ruled in favour of Oceana regarding the appeal from fishermen against Cabrera National Park enlargement. The expansion by 10 times of the National Marine Park of Cabrera, in the Balearic Islands (Spain) was approved in February 2019 by the Council of Ministers. It was however immediately appealed by a fishermen’s association (Carbopesca) in an attempt to revoke it, arguing that the expansion of the MPA would disproportionately impact the longlining fishing activity. Oceana made a formal submission as an intervenor in the case through our lawyers (ISLAW) and provided crucial information in justifying the expansion of the Park. The final verdict from November 12th dismissed the fisher’s appeal and request them to pay the litigation costs. This is an important legal battle Oceana won, which further reinforce the importance of nature conservation legislation, against unjustified socio-economic arguments. We will now focus our efforts on the management of the enlarged area, prioritizing the development and approval of its management plan in 2021. Full press release (in Spanish) here
As a national park, the Cabrera archipelago has the highest level of protection. It is a very important area for migratory seabirds, with more than 130 species nesting in these islands. There is also a wide variety of interesting vegetation, including twenty endemic species to the Balearic Islands, as well as endemic fauna, from insects and reptiles to small mammals, among others.
But the biodiversity is equally as dramatic beneath the surface of the sea, where we find a typical Mediterranean enclave, with rocky formations covered in a huge variety of red, green and brown algae and endless invertebrates. Undersea caves shelter fish, corals and crustaceans. What’s more, there are significant undersea meadows of Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa as well as coralligenous and maerl populations.
Six expeditions as part of the campaign to extend the park
Since 2007, Oceana has been carrying out work as part of a campaign to extend the national park. That same year, Oceana undertook an initial study of the seabeds in the area around the park, which documented the presence, outside the boundaries of the protected area, of important habitats such as thick kelp forests, extraordinary coralligenous formations, rich maerl seabeds and gardens of gorgonians. Species listed in international agreements—including a number of black corals—and even red coral, were also found.
In all, Oceana has completed six expeditions to the areas surrounding the protected area, down to a maximum depth of 1,004 metres in the Emile Baudot escarpment.
The results obtained have led Oceana to campaign for the protection of the seabeds bordering the Cabrera National Park and to push for their declaration as a marine protected area, demanding that authorities act with urgency to prevent the disappearance of one of the most interesting and most threatened seabeds in the Mediterranean.
Finally, in January of 2018, the park’s expansion—by nearly tenfold the park’s original size—was approved.
A Miniature Mediterranean
Following the park’s expansion from 10,021 to 90,794 hectares, the Balearic Islands now hold the second-largest national marine park in the Mediterranean.
Within the park are 12 out of the 13 natural systems cited within the Law governing National Parks, making Cabrera the largest and most biodiverse national park in the western Mediterranean.
The expansion area is comprised of eleven of these natural systems and add to the previously-protected undersea meadows. Some of the natural systems found here are:
- Shoals and steep escarpments, including the Emile Baudot escarpment—one of the most emblematic escarpments in the Mediterranean, that drops from -200m to -2,000m.
- Coralligenous areas, including the Fort d’en Moreu reef where spectacular gorgonian gardens and laminaria forests can be found
- Pelagic areas of passage, reproduction or with the habitual presence of cetaceans or large migratory fish, a natural system that had, until now, not been part of the Spanish national parks network. In the case of Cabrera, the addition of the system will benefit fish like the red tuna and swordfish and cetaceans like the sperm whale.