Oceana reaches a kilometre deep at the Emile Baudot escarpment

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The Emile Baudot escarpment, south of the Balearic Islands, has shown its face for the first time thanks to Oceana’s underwater robot.


August 28, 2013
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( [email protected] )




Cabrera National Park will be the first in Spain to include an escarpment if Oceana’s proposed extension is accepted.

Oceana has captured the first images in existence of the Emile Baudot escarpment, located in an area south of the Balearic islands, which the marine conservation organisation proposes should be incorporated into Cabrera National Park. The Oceana Ranger 2013 Expedition filmed at a depth of up to 1,000 metres. The videos show huge rocky slopes heavily covered by sediment, creating beautiful landscapes and hosting both pelagic and deep sea fauna.

In the layer nearest to the surface, dolphins, swordfish and manta rays were seen jumping out of the water. Deeper areas  boasted different communities: from caves, in the shallowest layer, where large grey groupers and long-spined sea urchins were spotted; to vast fields of brachiopods and crinoids in detrital sedimentary beds; to the very deepest zones where giant oysters crowd together under the rocky ledges.

Oceana was only able to document a small part of the escarpment, given that it is over 3,000 metres deep and more than 300 kilometres in length, but has demonstrated its great diversity.
Documented species include, devil fish, viperfish and lantern fish, rat-tail fish, shortfin spiny eels, gulper sharks and various commercial species, such as hake, blue whiting, forkbeards, red scorpion fish, whitebait, megrims, crayfish, shrimps, red prawns, lobsters, shamefaced crabs, spider crabs and squid, as well as echinoderms (sea cucumbers, cushion sea stars, urchins) and sea pens.

Sampling was carried out south of Cabrera National Park to provide information on the biological richness of the area and encourage the expansion of the park. However, the dives went even further, reaching as far as the volcanic cones where the escarpment joins the Emile Baudot seamount, where different species of glass sponges, forests of gorgonians, ancient coral reefs, lollipop sponges, tripod fish and jellyfish-devouring blue butterfish were found.

“There is still much work to be done to analyse the samples and review the recordings and, although it has been a very interesting experience, we return with a bitter-sweet sensation. On the one hand we have observed unique places, but we have also seen how far reaching the human damage has been. In the depths of the Emile Baudot escarpment a significant amount of waste has accumulated, most having drifted there from the islands or tipped from boats”, explained Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Investigation at Oceana in Europe.

Plastic bags, cans, drums, ropes, fishing lines and other debris are found in abundance at depths of over 700 metres in some of the flatter areas of the escarpment. This also occurs on the surface, where plastic waste was continuously drifting by. Our team reported that not a minute passed without there being some floating debris in sight.

The Spanish National Parks Act includes escarpments as natural marine systems that should be represented in the network of protected areas. For this reason, Oceana is calling on the Spanish government to include the Emile Baudot escarpment in this network. The presence of protected species such as manta rays or long-spined sea urchins demonstrate the importance of this location.