The marine environment of the Doñana site is, as occurs in the terrestrial domain, an exceptional site for biodiversity. Situated in the gulf of Cadiz, at the confluence of special geographic, oceanographic and environmental characteristics, the marine area of Doñana is a place of enormous strategic and biological productivity. It is of great importance for man and many species of fauna and flora, many of them protected, from cetaceans and sea turtles to corals, molluscs and fish.
Unfortunately, the protection and management measures granted to the terrestrial environment of this unique place (such as the declaration of the National Park, Biosphere Reserve, Natural Heritage Site, Wetland of International Importance, or its inclusion in the Natura 2000) have not been applied to the sea, beyond the small strip of sea included in the National Park boundaries.
On the other hand, from the point of view of the pressures resulting from human activity, areas related to marine estuaries require special attention, because, generally, and due to its high productivity, they concentrate commercial species and are therefore targeted areas of the fishing industry. Moreover, in this case it is an area of high interest due to its geographical location and strategic focus makes for numerous activities.
Oceana has documented for years the seabed marine area in front of Doñana, with professional divers and an underwater robot (ROV), carrying out almost 100 dives between 10 and 105 meters deep. The analysis of the information obtained has served to identify the areas of greatest ecological interest and to substantiate the need for protection (Spanish) and management of these rich waters.
The detailed analysis of the information collected over the years allows us to determine the most relative areas of biodiversity, such as the waterfront of Rota and Chipiona, where there are rock outcrops with dense forests of tree coral (Dendrophyllia ramea), corals Caryophyllia spp. and showy orange coral colonies (Astroides calycularis). The latter is a protected species that had never been seen in front of Doñana until it was filmed by Oceana and here is its westernmost known distribution.
Further north, in front of Mazagon, there are also rocky bottoms with gorgonians such as Leptogorgia sarmentosa or Elisella paraplexauroides, sponges and many other invertebrates, creating important habitats for many species, some of them of high commercial value. Other non rocky areas, composed entirely of muddy bottoms, are home to many species of commercial and ecological value, for which they also need to be managed properly.
Proposal for extension
Doñana was declared a national park in 1969 to protect a diverse and rich estuary ecosystem that includes marshes, beaches and dunes. However, despite the fact that the marine front is a strategic location with high biological productivity, it only has relative protection, involving a buffer zone (3,700 ha).
Oceana proposes to increase the marine area of the park with some 174,000 ha between the towns of Mazagón and Rota, extending this several kilometres out to sea. This would include a significant area of the continental shelf, which would give continuity to the maritime-terrestrial environment of Doñana, which includes the following outstanding natural systems: (1) Coralligenous communities with an extensive distribution in the area; (2) Detritic and sedimentary bottoms with a high fluvial influence; (3) Rocky bottoms which are very abundant and in which we find gardens of gorgonians and other threatened corals; and (4) Banks of deep corals, whose location is particularly unusual, since here they appear at a lower depth than usual due to the characteristics of the mouth of the Guadalquivir, with a high concentration of nutrients and high hydrodynamic activity.