Oceana presents a proposal to protect almost 3,000 km2 of the Balearic Sea

For the first time, and thanks to images taken with an underwater robot and support from Fundación Biodiversidad, maps have been developed indicating the main habitats and location of protected species.

Press Release Date: July 8, 2011

Location: Madrid


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Ausías March, Emile Baudot and Ses Olives may become the first protected seamounts in the western Mediterranean


Oceana presented a report this morning in Palma de Mallorca including a proposal to protect the seamounts of the Mallorca Channel: Ausías March, Emile Baudot and Ses Olives. The project includes two areas, for a total of 2,820 km2. These areas are among the Spanish sea’s most ecologically valuable areas due to their high productivity. Twenty-nine protected, vulnerable or threatened species were documented here, including dolphins, pilot whales, loggerhead turtles and knobbed tritons.


The images on which this proposal is based were collected with the help of an underwater robot (ROV) during the Oceana Ranger’s 2010 expedition, carried out with monetary support from Fundación Biodiversidad. For this first time, this information will be reflected in maps that will constitute a clear and concise tool to help authorities design protection measures for this valuable marine area. The maps include the location of species documented during the expedition which are protected under national or international legislation, the different types of sea beds and some exceptional findings that give the area unquestionable ecological value, from a scientific perspective.


“The seamounts of the Mallorca Channel are exceptionally interesting sites for conservation. They harbor communities of high ecological value and species of commercial interest that are at risk due to various threats. With the proposal of this marine protected area (MPA) presented today, we are trying to promote the protection of Spanish seas, saving these areas from harmful activities such as bottom trawling, by the implementation of correct protection and management measures,” explains Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe.

In fact, one of the main reasons to request protection for this area is the presence of numerous trawling marks on the sea beds in areas where extremely fragile species are present. Aggressive fishing gear, like bottom trawling, endangers the survival of these communities and the associated species of commercial interest. In this sense, some of the most important discoveries made by Oceana included large fields of bamboo coral (Isidella elongata), which have practically disappeared from the Mediterranean. In addition, the marine conservation organization filmed the carnivorous sponge Asbestopluma hypogea –protected by the Barcelona Convention and identified for the first time in the Balearic Sea- and the small deep-sea gorgonian Swiftia rosea, also documented in the Mediterranean for the first time. 


Part of Oceana’s work involves using non-aggressive techniques –such as photography and video- to document the sea beds that represent unique habitats and species in need of protection and conservation. The report presented today includes the results of the expedition completed by Oceana scientists in 2010 in collaboration with the Fundación Biodiversidad, with graphic documentation corresponding to the different research campaigns completed since 2006 at depths that sometimes exceeded 600 meters.


“The seamounts of the Balearic Sea constitute one of the most important underwater structures in the western Mediterranean Sea from a geological perspective and thanks to our work, we are proving their inestimable biological value,” explains Pastor. “In fact, Oceana included them in the MedNet proposal of MPAs because they play a key role in the conservation of the Mediterranean. The designation of this area as MPA would make Spain an international reference in marine conservation.”


The proposal presented today is focused on contributing to this objective by expanding the Network of MPAs in Spain and supporting compliance with European directives through Law 41/2010 of 29 December, on the Protection of the Marine Environment, whose main challenge is to achieve the good environmental status of Spanish Seas. Both regional and national governments have recently supported this initiative, for which Oceana has been providing information for years. If carried out, Spain would be closer to achieving the objective set out by the Convention on Biological Diversity that recommends effectively protecting at least 10% of the world’s marine areas.


Along these same lines of Spanish marine biodiversity conservation,  an important effort is being made within the LIFE+ INDEMARES project (www.indemares.es), co-financed by the European Union and coordinated by the Fundación Biodiversidad, with participation from Oceana and other organizations and agencies like MARM, IEO, CSIC, SECAC, WWF España, CEMMA, SEO/BirdLife and Alnitak.

Report: Seamounts of the Balearic Islands

More information: Balearic Islands