Oceana advocates for the creation of 80,000 marine protected hectares off Doñana

The organization has found threatened coral in waters of the Gulf of Cádiz (Andalusia, Spain) and a rich ecosystem with an abundance of sea fans, sponges, ascidians and mollusks

Press Release Date: July 27, 2010

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana is proposing the creation of a new marine protected area in Andalusia that would extend the number of protected hectares off Doñana National Park and nearby waters from 4,000 to 80,000. The international marine conservation organization, now in its forth year in the area and in collaborating with Fundación Biodiversidad, has found endangered species and others that have, until now, never been found in Spanish waters.

Through the research catamaran Oceana Ranger and the sampling launch, Oceana Explorer, Oceana has performed over 50 submersions in this region to study the marine ecosystem found between Mazagón and Rota. To do this, the vessel is equipped with divers, a submarine robot (ROV), dredgers and instruments for measuring temperature, salinity, depth, etc.

The results generated by this work are yielding very interesting data on the seabeds and species that live here. Large colonies of golden cup coral (Astroides calycularis) have been found. It is the only species of coral protected by Spanish law and considered endangered because of its limited distribution around the Strait of Gibraltar, both in the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic. Oceana is also pending to confirm the finding of a species preliminarily identified as Cladopsammia rolandi. It is a very little known species that was thought to be endemic to the Mediterranean, and that has never been found in Spanish waters.

What also caught our attention were the large “forests” of tree coral (Dendrophyllia ramea) that spread out over several hectares and different gorgonians (Leptogorgia sarmentosa, Eunicella verrucosa, E. gazella, E. labiata), as well as beds of ascidians that include Ectinascidia turbinata. This particular species has chemical properties that are the subject of a medical study for treating different types of cancer.

The Gulf of Cádiz has proven to be a magnificent place for finding species such as the African striped grunt (Parapristipoma octolineatum), rubberlip grunt (Plectorhinchus mediterraneus) and the Senegal seabream (Diplodus bellotii).

“This area of the Gulf of Cádiz shelters very rich and diverse fauna with species that are unique to the Iberian Peninsula, some of them globally threatened. The scarcity of marine protected areas makes it necessary to set into motion new initiatives to protect these enclaves”, declared Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana Europe.

2010, which was declared International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations, still has a large unresolved issue: ocean conservation. Recent analyses of protected areas in the ocean conducted both internationally and in the European Union, have delved into this great deficiency and have required governments such as the Spanish Government to create more and new marine reserves.

The Government of Spain, through Fundación Biodiversidad, coordinates the LIFE+ INDEMARES project to address these problems through the identification of valuable areas for Natura 2000 Network. The INDEMARES project will have a participatory approach, and will include all of the relevant institutions in management, research and conservation in marine environments: Environmental, Rural and Marine Affairs Ministry (through the Secretary General of Sea Affairs), the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), the Spanish Council for Scientific Research, ALNITAK, the Coordinator for the Study of Marine Mammals, OCEANA, the Society for the Study of Cetaceans in the Canary Archipelago, SEO/BirdLife and WWF Spain.

The project actions will be carried out from January 1st, 2009 to December 31st, 2013. The total budget is € 15.4 million, and the European Commission will co-finance 50% of the project.

Onboard log of the Oceana Ranger’s 2010 Expedition