On-board Diary: Cabo de Gata - Piedra de los Meros en La Laja

Author: Ricardo Aguilar
Date: August 2, 2006



Early in the morning, we set up a meeting with the people in charge of the Cabo de Gata Marine Reserve in order to prepare a work plan. They come aboard at 09:00 in the morning and we exchange opinions about the best dive sites. They are exceptional collaborators, and we will also receive help from two volunteers who know this area very well and who will guide us during these few days. José Ramón Chicano y María del Mar Campra come aboard the Ranger and we set sail towards our first destination; it is Piedra de los Meros.

This is a popular dive site for many divers who come looking for the dusky grouper (Epinephelus marginatus) and striped or goldblotch grouper (Epinephelus costae) which are plentiful in this area. It is a large rock that falls from 26 to 35 meters deep in the ocean and where there are numerous caves. In the vicinity, prairies of Posidonia oceanica can still be seen. Banks of yellowmouth barracudas (Sphyraena viridensis) can also be spotted.

In the afternoon, we head towards La Laja, within the area of the marine reserve. Here there is an elevation which descends only 7 meters, and around it we spot various shipwrecks. There is a wide variety of sponges, hydrozoa and corals on the walls, among them a colony of Phyllangia mouchezii.

Further on, we spot a common eagle ray (Myliobatis aquila) resting on the sand and some banks of brown meagres (Sciaena umbra) and African striped grunts (Parapristipoma octolineatum). The latter is quite common in the Canary Islands but not in the Mediterranean, or at least until now. It is getting quite common to find species such as these, that are usually to be found in southern waters, in Mediterranean and even Atlantic and Cantabrian waters due to the increase in the water temperatures, which makes them move northward.

In the afternoon, we anchor off San José so we can continue our work tomorrow, in search of calcareous algae and maerl beds.