Oceana in Europe recently concluded their month-long expedition to the Canary Islands, which documented a vast amount of biodiversity around the island of El Hierro. The expedition aimed to map and gather more information about seamounts north of Lanzarote, the easternmost Canary Island, and around Sahara, the southernmost point of the Spanish Exclusive Economic Zone, to help grow the body of knowledge about these areas and advance their protective measures.
Less than two months after our successful coastal expedition in the Baltic ended, we’ve sent out another team on board the Ranger, our research catamaran, to study a (very) little known escarpment (steep slope, rocky wall) in the Spanish Mediterranean just south of Cabrera National Park.
Our crew aboard the Ranger spotted this charming seabird near Spain’s Gibraltar Strait.
Puffins feed by diving for fish underwater, using its strong wings to swim. They breed in large clifftop colonies, and the puffin parents take turns incubating the egg.
Puffins eat only a few species of fish, including capelin. As a result, commercial capelin fisheries in Canada, Norway, Iceland and Russia pose a threat for Atlantic puffins. Capelin are mainly used for fish meal and oil industry products.
Check out a slideshow of stunning photos from this year's Ranger expedition so far!
Last week, in a culmination of several years of work, our European colleagues presented a proposal to protect 15% of the marine area around Spain’s Canary Islands. If the proposal is accepted, it would multiply the current protected area by 100.
Here’s the back story: In 2009 the Oceana Ranger, our research catamaran, sailed to the Canaries, which are off the coast of Morocco. Over the course of two months, the crew documented the seamounts and seabeds of the archipelago, and found a dozen species never before seen in the area, and filmed many rare species, including three-foot-tall glass sponges, Venus fly-trap anemones and lollipop sponges. (For more on the Canaries see this piece from our magazine last winter.)
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.