Oceana applauds Spanish and Balearic Government support to protect balearic seamounts

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This would be the first marine protected area created to preserve seamounts in the Mediterranean, making Spain a pioneer country.


March 4, 2011
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( [email protected] )




Protecting the seamounts of the Channel of Mallorca will lead to the conservation of hundreds of marine species and habitats that are highly important for Mediterranean biodiversity

Oceana is pleased with the announcement made today by the Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs concerning its commitment to protect the seamounts of the Channel of Mallorca, one of the areas in  the Spanish Mediterranean with the highest levels of biodiversity. This decision represents the Spanish government’s firm support for the conservation of habitats and species and would be the first time a marine area is created to protect seamounts in the entire Mediterranean. The underwater area to be protected would be roughly the same size as the island of Mallorca.

Oceana has carried out numerous research campaigns on these seamounts, known as Ausias March, Ses Olives and Emile Baudot, confirming the presence of habitats and species of international importance, including extensive rhodolith fields, coralline formations and one of the few bamboo coral fields (Isidella elongata) that remain in the Mediterranean. A variety of species listed in various conventions and legislations are also present on these sea beds and were documented by Oceana, including the carnivorous sponge Asbestopluma hypogea, gorgonians Savaglia savaglia and Eunicella verrucosa and molluscs Charonia lampas, Ranella olearia and Erosaria spurca.

Protecting and correctly managing seamounts greatly benefits the species that live directly on these structures, as well as those present in the overlying water column. Thus, cetaceans like bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), pilot whales (Globicephala melas), sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), sea turtles, particularly the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and other large pelagic species like tunas or some sharks will also benefit from the protection afforded to this area.

For years, Oceana has been disseminating information on and calling for the protection of seamounts on the national and international level and the organisation will be presenting a new report about these structures in upcoming months.

“There are various seamounts in the Mediterranean, both large structures, such as these, and numerous smaller structures. All of these generate a wealth of life in the surrounding area and are threatened, so working for their protection is the responsibility of our governments,” points out Xavier Pastor, director of Oceana in Europe. Since we began transmitting the importance of these seamounts, the president of the Balearic regional government, Francesc Antich, has shown interest in protecting the area, aware of the important ecosystems they harbour and the proven socioeconomic and ecological benefits generated by marine protected areas that are correctly managed.”

According to Oceana, the first priority, with regards to instituting effective protection measures, involves removing trawlers from the area, because this fishing technique constitutes the most serious and imminent threat for sensitive habitats.

Report “Balearic Seamounts 2010” and map

 Oceana's Proposal to the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (November 2010)