News from the deep: Oceana's crew aboard the Ranger has discovered a previously undocumented coral reef in the Alboran Sea in the high seas of the Mediterranean.
The reef, which is located more than 1,300 feet below the surface and covers over 1 million square feet, is formed primarily by white coral. With this discovery, Oceana with be able to glean additional data from the reef to support our efforts to declare new marine protected areas in the Mediterranean.
Coral reefs are the backbone of many marine ecosystems, and deep-sea corals area among the most vulnerable. Tragically, many reefs are destroyed by bottom trawling, a fishing technique akin to clear-cutting that devastates coral reefs and creates seafloor wastelands devoid of life.
And coral reefs aren’t the only habitats that suffer. The area around the newly discovered reef is flourishing with other important habitats including gorgonian gardens and rare glass sponge fields. In order to protect this region, Oceana is planning to present the data to the Barcelona Convention in the near future, pressing officials to list it as a protected area.
Our research catamaran, Ranger, is currently at sea for its annual expedition, and the crew recently made an incredible discovery in the depths of the Western Mediterranean Sea.
Using a deep-diving ROV, they discovered large colonies of deep-sea white coral, which is significant considering that most of the Mediterranean’s deep-sea coral reefs have already been destroyed by bottom trawling and longline fishing.
Most of the research conducted in the Mediterranean to date has found only dead coral; in fact, Ranger’s crew found live colonies of deep-sea coral coexisting with large expanses of dead coral.
The reef, which Ranger found in Spain’s Alboran Sea, is one of the richest and most threatened ecosystems in the Mediterranean, forming a habitat for species such as redfish, roughy, red seabream and countless others.
You can read the Ranger’s on-board diaries for more on this year’s expedition.