Oceana sails to the Canary Islands to study the seabed and propose the creation of protected areas
Because the deep seabeds of the Canary Islands are little known, an underwater robot will be used to film at 500 meters
Press Release Date: May 3, 2010
The Oceana Ranger research vessel sets sail today from the port of Sagunto (Valencia) to study the seabeds of the Canary Islands and gather information to propose designation of new marine protected areas. The objective of the expedition is to contribute information to help Spain protect 10% of its marine environment by 2012, as required by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The Canary Island expedition, which will conclude in mid-October, is a project supported by the Biodiversity Foundation through its official announcement for aid and will be carried out after having studied previously the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula.
Oceana will study the seamounts of the Canary Islands, as well as the seabeds of El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. A team of professional divers will work to photograph and film the areas up to 40 meters depth. After that depth, an underwater robot (Remotely Operated Vehicle, or ROV) will be used to film down to 500 meters depth, transmitting the images to the ship in real time for later species identification.
The photographs taken during the expedition will be included in a database along will all relevant information about the species (common and scientific names, habitats, activity, locations, etc.). Furthermore, the video footage will be reviewed and analyzed to make it easier to find the species and use the footage for distribution and administrative purposes. All images recorded with the ROV include the geographic coordinates and depth at which they were taken.
The information gathered will be used to compile a scientific and technical report on the state of the marine ecosystems. The report will draw conclusions about the conservation state of the seabeds studied and information on the threats that affect them, and make recommendations for protection, including the designation of new marine protected areas.
Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana Europe, explains, “Most of the Canary Islands seabeds remain unexplored since the continental shelf is small and quickly drops down to 3,000 meters. This makes it complicated to know their state of conservation or identify areas of key importance in terms of marine ecology. The Ranger expedition will sail around the main islands to evaluate the state of the already-protected areas, detect risk factors and identify new areas that deserve protection. The difference from other projects is that images will be taken and information will be compiled about places that, up to now, have never been studied.”
Research projects like this one by Oceana are used by different administrations to designate new marine protected areas or expand already existing ones. Currently, there are only three Marine Reserves in the Canary Islands: La Graciosa and the islands of northern Lanzarote (70,700 hectares), La Restinga / El Hierro – Mar de las Calmas (750 ha) and La Palma Island (3,719 ha). A new reserve is being created in La Gomera and there is also the Natural Park of the Chinijo Archipelago (Lanzarote, 37,151 ha).
In 2005 and after intense work carried out by Oceana’s offices in Brussels and Madrid, the EU prohibited destructive fishing practices –including bottom trawling- in approximately 650,000 square kilometres around the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores. This area does not include Concepción Bank, near Lanzarote, a seamount for which the international marine conservation organization has requested protection many times.