Spain needs to protect an additional marine surface of 95,000 km2 to comply with United Nations commitments. This means multiplying the currently protected area by 20
With only three years left to reach the deadline imposed by the United Nations to protect at least 10% of the world’s marine areas, Spain needs to quickly increase the meagre 0.5% it currently protectes. This means almost 65 km2 must be protected per day.
In an event presided over by the director of the Fundación Biodiversidad, Ana Leiva, and the director of Oceana in Europe, Xavier Pastor, the “Proposal of ecologically important marine areas: South Atlantic and Spanish Mediterranean” was presented. The proposal consists of a scientific report based on research carried out by Oceana with support from the Fundación Biodiversidad. The report includes a proposal for the protection of 25 marine areas, most of which are currently unprotected, because of their ecological importance.
The designation of new protected marine areas such as Seco de los Olivos (Andalusia), the seamounts of the Mallorca channel (Balearic Islands), the canyons of Palamos and Creus (Catalonia), the Seco de Palos (facing Murcia) and Cape Nao (region of Valencia), along with the expansion of other already protected areas such as Columbretes, Alborán and Doñana, are some of Oceana’s proposals in this report concerning approximately 50 areas in the Spanish Mediterranean and adjacent Atlantic waters.
“The work carried out with the underwater robot and the team of professional underwater photographers and videographers has allowed us to obtain new information about important sea beds unknown until now”, affirms marine biologist Xavier Pastor. Oceana examined the water column from the surface down to 300 meters depth. Thanks to this, a variety of ecosystems were studied including gorgonian gardens, sponge fields, algae forests, mixed seagrass beds, and mäerl and coralligenous beds. Carnivorous sponges were identified on two Spanish seamounts.
Currently, Spain protects more than 5,000 kilometres of marine areas under various denominations, but this figure must be increased to approximately 100,000 km2. According to the United Nations Biodiversity Convention, at least 10% of the world’s marine areas must be protected by 2012 in order to halt biodiversity loss in the oceans. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, however, recommends increasing this percentage to 20-30% to reach this objective.
“Not only should new areas be afforded protection, but also many of the existing areas should be expanded. Nearly half of Spain’s marine protected areas barely reach a surface area of one square kilometre, making them inefficient for conserving certain habitats and species,” affirms Ricardo Aguilar, director of research and projects for Oceana in Europe and campaign director on board the Ranger.
The Spanish government, through Fundación Biodiversidad, has begun an ambitious project called LIFE+ INDEMARES, supported by the European Commission, to study potential new areas for conservation. The project, in which Oceana is a collaborator, aims to study and propose protection for 10 marine areas. Even if these proposals are successful, additional areas will still need to be designated and more surface area will need to be protected in order to achieve international objectives.
For this reason, Oceana is analysing sea beds in Spanish waters to present a more complete network of protected areas that includes a wider diversity of ecosystems, habitats and marine species.
Oceana has carried out dives in more than 50 locations in the Spanish Mediterranean and obtained more than 160 hours of footage and 3,000 underwater photographs.
Oceana has photographs and images of the proposed sea beds