Oceana and the Fondazione Zegna condemn the deaths of thousands of corals in the Mediterranean

Mass die-offs have been detected from the Gulf of Genoa to Cape Palos. Less than 1% of coral species are protected.

Press Release Date: August 22, 2013

Location: Madrid


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

The situation for corals in the Mediterranean is alarming. Climate changes, contamination and destructive fishing practices are causing accelerated deterioration of this sea’s corals. For this reason, Oceana and the Fondazione Zegna demand urgent protection measures in the report “Corals of the Mediterranean”, presented today in the CaixaForum auditorium in Palma de Mallorca, in which they propose the approval of a specific action plan.

The Mediterranean is home to more than 200 species of corals, gorgonians and anemones. Although the majority of the reef-forming corals disappeared from the Mediterranean over 5 million years ago, some species have survived to the present day, such as the Mediterranean madreporaria (Cladocora caespitosa). Scientists emphasise the importance of this species because both the fossils and the specimens living today help reveal the sea’s climate history, thanks to the long life spans of the reefs. 

“Our objective is to achieve the adoption of measures, both regional and international, to halt the decline of many coral species”, affirms Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana Europe and co-author of “Corals of the Mediterranean”, because “only 6% of coral species are included in international agreements and only 1% is protected”.

The report analyses the main causes of the mass die-offs taking place during the last few years in the Mediterranean waters of Italy, France and Spain, which include the anomalous increase in water temperature, the spatial extension of these warmer waters and their extended periods of time. Of the 18 diseases detected amongst corals around the world (such as bleaching, black-band, aspergillosis, etc.), two have been detected in the Mediterranean: bleaching caused by the Vibrio shiloi  bacteria and the fungal-protozoan syndrome.

“A first necessary measure for conserving corals is prohibiting the use of trawling, dredging and similar destructive fishing gears in places with vulnerable ecosystems, such as those formed by corals,” asserts Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe.

The corals that are affected by this mortality are the red gorgonian (Paramuricea clavata), the white gorgonian (Eunicella singularis), the yellow gorgonian (Eunicella cavolini), the pink gorgonian (Eunicella verrucosa), the red corals (Corallium rubrum), the Mediterranean gorgonian (Leptogorgia sarmentosa), the Mediterranean madreporaria (Cladocora caespitosa), the cup corals (Balanophyllia europaea) and the yellow encrusting anemones (Parazoanthus axinellae).

Oceana has photographs and video images available of corals in the Mediterranean.

To access the video online: http://www.oceana.org/sp/europa/prensa/oceana-video/los-corales-del-brmediterraneo/