Oceana launches an online display to promote the creation of a marine national park in El Hierro

Press Release Date: February 19, 2015

Location: Madrid


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

Oceana presents a spectacular display of photographs and video from the area to the south of El Hierro to support the initiative to create what would be the first fully marine national park in Spain. The pictures, mostly taken at depths of several hundred metres, demonstrate that these waters represent a unique environment of extraordinary ecological importance. In them we can see almost unknown animals, such as a transparent fish with six eyes (Dolichopteryx longipes) filmed for the very first time.

“The seabeds of the Canary Islands are remarkable and the waters of El Hierro around them are truly outstanding.The pictures that Oceana’s team of scientists tookduring our latest Oceana expedition have exceeded all our expectations. In particular, the discovery of one of the rare examples of living deep-water white coral reefs in the Canary Islands, as well as sponges and black corals that could be new to science,” explains Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe.

The display shows almost 300 photographs taken by Oceana with the ROV (submarine robot). Particularly impressive, are the photos of  deep-sea sharks, a vulnerable yet abundant species in the area, and the reefs formed by giant oysters, which can live for more than five centuries, placing them among the longest-living molluscs currently known. Also visible in the pictures are bamboo corals, glass sponges of different species, carnivorous sponges and even giant foraminifera, which are normally found at depths of more than 4,000 metres but have been found here at only 900 metres below the surface.

The photographs were taken over the course of twenty-two dives along the southern end of the island and include the place where the submarine eruption occurred in 2011.Pictures have been taken of organisms that are beginning to colonise the rocks ejected by the volcano. The deepest dive was at Punta del Pesquero, with a maximum depth of 1,006 metres.

“The south of El Hierro is one of the most interesting and best preserved places we have documented in Oceana,” adds Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana in Europe. “The abrupt change in relief generates a wide variety of ecosystems and facilitates the creation of reefs and an abundance of fish that extends into the surrounding areas. This, along with the great importance of the area for sharks and beaked whales, fully justifies the plans to create a national park. The new findings have confirmed that this is a unique enclave and we must continue to investigate it.”

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