On-board Diary: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe protected biotope

Author: Ana de la Torriente
Date: July 17, 2008



We spent the day working on the Gaztelugatxe protected biotope, the only marine protected area in the Basque Country, apart from the Mundaka estuary that is within the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve.

We carried out two dives off the two islands within the protected area, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and Aketze.

On the first island, there is an old church from the tenth century that must have been a monastery for the Knights Templar. The Aketze islote is isolated and is a sanctuary for marine birds.

During first dive, off the area located northwest of the San Juan island, we documented a rocky seabed covered by forests of Gelidium sp. Although it was very difficult for Enrique and Sergio to film and take photographs because of the rough seas and currents, they were able to document a few species, including sea urchins (Paracentrotus lividus), various species of ascidians and sponges, as well as the red or Portuguese blenny (Parablennius ruber) that is usually only found off the coasts of Madeira and Portugal, although it has been spotted by various divers in Cantabria and the Basque Country.

During the second dive, north of Aketze Island, we were surprised by an abundance of schools of fish that were scarce along the Cantabrian coast. Amongst the species of fish, we documented bogues (Boop boops), Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta), blennies (Parablennius gattorugine and Parablennius pilicornis), combers (Serranus cabrilla) and cleaner-wrasse (Centrolabrus rupestris).

Once again, despite the fact that this is a protected area, we found remnants of fishing gear in both areas.

We reached Bermeo at night, a small fishing port in Biscay.