Oceana Discovers Many of the Most Threatened Habitats in the Mediterranean on the Seamounts of the Balearic Islands
Vast beds of coralline and maërl, carnivorous sponges, black coral and bamboo coral or rays, crustaceans and many other species are part of this seascape’s enormous biological diversity
Press Release Date: August 19, 2010
The international marine conservation organization’s research catamaran, the Oceana Ranger, in collaboration with Fundación Biodiversidad, has just finished an expedition in Palma de Mallorca. The odyssey lasted almost three months, of which the last two weeks were spent in the Balearic Islands.
Oceana has discovered many of the most threatened ecosystems of the Mediterranean among these islands. These ecosystems are home to some vulnerable habitats such as coralline, gorgonian fields and groups of sponges and maërl, and other sensitive habitats like fields of bamboo coral, giant sea pens or beds with mud brachiopods. Since Oceana began taking samples from these seamounts in 2006, it has made more than 30 submersions with a submarine robot (ROV) between depths of 80 and 670 meters. This has made it possible to cover over 50 km in dives and film up to 90,000 m² of seabed ecosystems.
Among the most interesting findings included the presence of carnivorous sponges and tritons on the Ausias March seamount -both species protected by the Barcelona Convention- black and bamboo coral of Ses Olives, and the large and varied fields of sponges and gorgonians or the swimming sea cucumber on the Emile Baudot Bank, also known as “Es port d’es francés”. Additionally, the depth of light penetration in the water column facilitates the development of rich green, red and brown algae communities and even coralline communities as deep as 150 meters. Pelagic species protected by national and international laws also benefit from this vast biodiversity. These include the sperm whale, the loggerhead turtle or bottlenose, striped and common dolphins.
The fields of bamboo coral, sea pens or brachiopods are internationally recognized for their importance to many species of commercial interest. In fact, in the areas studied by Oceana, a wide range of crustaceans has been documented. These include prawns, deepwater spider crab, Norway lobster, lobster, shrimp and crab that can form dense communities in better-preserved areas. Oceana has also been able to document the destruction on these seabeds.
Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe, stated “With the scientific information that we are able to provide, we will be able to create the first marine protected area on the high seas in the entire Mediterranean”.
This information, in addition to that gathered during Oceana’s previous expeditions in the same area, will be studied in detail to make a final protection proposal that will ensure the preservation of one of the most important biodiversity hot spots in the Mediterranean.
Oceana has photographs and video available