On-board Diary: East of Cabrera
Author: Ricardo Aguilar
Date: September 28, 2006
Today, we will take samples with the ROV in two areas within the park. One in the southeast and another in the north. The sea floors are sandy with large concentrations of sand urchins, especially Spatangus purpureus.
In other areas, we spot large concentrations of rhizomes and dead Posidonia leaves which have been transported to depths of 80-90 meters. The habitat they create is used by scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa) and brown combers (Serranus hepatus). But we also spot some dead man's hand finger coral (Alcyonium acaule), anemones (Andresia parthenopea) and many hermit crabs (Pagurus prideaux) wearing cloak anemones (Adamsia carciniopados) and others that have chosen Suberites sponges for houses instead of a shell. As far as we can see, it must be mating season, because many of the male hermit crabs were holding on firmly to the females with their claws.
Other crabs that are quite commonly found here are the Inachus species. Another species that is also probably quite common here, although we have not seen too many, is the pebble crab (Ilia nucleus), but given they are so small, many of them probably went unseen by us.
The echinoderms are common here, especially the holothurians (Stichopus regalis and Holothuria tubulosa) and even the pencil urchins (Stylocidaris affinis), although we are surprised to find a long-spined urchin (Centrostephanus longispinus) because, apart from the fact that it is endangered, it is not frequently found in sandy areas.
Toward the end of the day, as night was approaching, a brown ray appeared (Raja miraletus) and as it swam up the water column, we were thrilled to see a giant salp (Salpa maxima) "dancing" in front of the robot's lights.
Today, as we were working underwater, we knew our co-workers on land were fighting an important battle which had been going on for weeks in order to stop the decline in the shark population, steadily declining for the past decades. In Strasbourg, the European Parliament was debating a proposal defended by two Spanish Euro MPs (one from the PSOE and the other from the PP, left and right-wing political parties respectively) in order to weaken, even more so if possible, European legislation regarding sharks and in favour of shark fin commerce. Luckily, this incomprehensible and dangerous proposal was rejected and, as soon as we were informed, we celebrated the victory on board.