Oceana finds a dozen species in the Canary islands not previously known to live in these waters

The Oceana Ranger catamaran is equipped with a robot that has dived down to 500 meters depth to film species that are rarely spotted, or have never even been seen, in the Canarian archipelago

Press Release Date: May 1, 2010

Location: Madrid


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

Oceana has found around a dozen species in the Canary Islands whose existence in the archipelago was unknown until now. Glass and rock sponges, ball, white and black coral, and armored searobin are some of the species that have been found. A wide variety of rare species, or species for which hardly any biological information is known, were also able to be filmed live, including channeled rockfish and anglerfish, silver and pink gallo fish, fan coral, bathyal sea fans, Venus fly-trap anemones and lollipops sponges.

This is the preliminary result of the catamaran Oceana Ranger’s first month of its campaign in Canarian waters. Oceana, in cooperation with Fundación Biodiversidad (Spain), is studying the sea beds around the archipelago to document areas that due to their environmental importance should be made into marine protected areas. Oceana is also compiling scientific information to support the inclusion of some SCIs (Sites of Community Interest) in the Natura 2000 Network. Some of these sites are: Cagafrecho (Lanzarote), Mogán, Arinaga-Gando and Sardina del Norte (Grand Canary), Teno (Tenerife), Valle Gran Rey (La Gomera), Garafía (La Palma) and Mar de las Calmas (El Hierro) and the expansion of Anaga (Tenerife), Jandía or Isla de Lobos (Fuerteventura) and Los Órganos (La Gomera).

With the help of a submarine robot, Oceana is documenting the communities that inhabit depths between 40 and 500 meters. Additionally, through submersions with divers, we study shallow coastal areas where there is a surprising decrease of the abundance of fish and an expansion of Lime urchins (Diadema antillarum), one of the archipelago’s main threats.

To date, the Oceana Ranger’s crew has performed 40 dives off of 6 out of the 7 islands (Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Grand Canary, Tenerife, la Gomera and La Palma). The second month of the campaign begins in the waters of El Hierro, and then we will go back and visit all of the islands.

“The lack of knowledge of the communities existing at great depths is one of the biggest problems when it comes time to decide which areas must be protected. The narrow platform existing around the islands makes the bottoms drop steeply to 1000 and 3000 meters, making it difficult to learn about them. It is essential that different habitats and species are included in the protected marine areas, since these serve as a refuge and breeding ground for the rest of the coastal and oceanic areas surrounding the archipelago”, states Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana Europe.

According to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, a network of protected marine areas that protect at least 10% of the ocean’s surface must be established. Currently in the Canary Islands, only 0.15% of the sea’s surface is protected. The European Union has around 2.7%.

Oceana considers that another highly important objective for the campaign is to record the different species of sharks and rays present around the islands because their presence has been decreasing quickly. To date, we have been able to identify five species of sharks (hammerhead, thresher, shortfin mako, tope and angel) and five species of rays (round stingray, common stingray, spiny butterfly ray, mouse and eagle).

To identify species and draw up new protection proposals, Oceana has contacted scientists and NGOs that work on the islands. This has turned the expedition into a task involving a great deal of cooperation with other entities that consider the need to adopt measures to protect the Canarian marine ecosystem to be urgent.

“We are very happy with the welcome that this initiative has had among NGOs and scientists who have spent years working to promote the conservation of marine habitats in the archipelago. We would like the Government to also welcome this information as a sample of our cooperation, and promote policies aimed at protecting biodiversity and the marine resources over time”, stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe.


Oceana has photographs and videos taken during the expedition

Oceana Ranger’s onboard log in the Canary Islands

On Oceana TV: Follow the expedition on Oceana News