On-board Diary: Diving at Islas Hormigas with the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO, standing for Instituto Español de Oceanografía)

Author: Silvia García
Date: July 21, 2010

Today we had dived with IEO Murcia personnel, who have taken us to the Reserva Marina Cabo de Palos-Islas Hormigas [Islas Hormigas Marine Reserve] to photograph the invasive algae Caulerpa racemosa upon the rhodolith bed.

As part of the effort to track the whereabouts of Posidonia in the waters of the Murcia region, the IEO oceanographic center of Murcia, located on San Pedro del Pinatar, also tracks the Caulerpa racemosa, an algae originating in tropical waters that has appeared in the Mediterranean a few years ago and has been spreading rapidly, competing with native species. The invasive species phenomenon is already a serious problem for the Mediterranean, where numerous exotic species are already replacing the native flora.

Alter this immersion, the submariners carried out a second one, this time in the reserve itself, whereupon they were able to document extraordinary white and red Gorgonia walls, as well as lots of species of fish and other marine flora and fauna, which embodies the amazing benefits that marine reserve provide towards the conservation and recuperation of sea life. Our divers described this immersion as one of the best ever undertaken in the Mediterranean.

At the end of the day, and already moored at the North side of the Cabo de Palos lighthouse, we found, as we had three years ago, a Rhinobatos rhinobatos, or guitar fish, specimen, a species that is considered in danger of extinction by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), and that finds one of its last refuges in Murcia.