Mediterranean countries and the EU decided to protect 11 species of deep-sea corals at the 18th COP to the Barcelona Convention. They also decided to implement the Action Plan on Dark Habitats, a scientific document drafted in part by Oceana, which will enable the creation of marine protected areas in deep-sea habitats like seamounts, submarine canyons, and caves. Many of these deep-sea habitats are unprotected, despite being extremely vulnerable to human activities like pollution, overfishing, and climate change.
Trawling Ban in Key Habitats of the Balearic Islands
The Spanish government issued a protection order to prohibit trawling on the summits of Mallorca Channel seamounts and in the coral reef east of Cabrera. Oceana fought for the protection of these beds for seven years. Until now these unique habitats, including coralligenous communities and rhodolites beds, were continuously subject to degradation because of illegal fishing.
Portugal has nominated the rich ecosystem of the Gorringe Bank as a new Marine Protected Area (MPA). Since 2005, Oceana has worked to draw attention and recognition to this bank, and to bring its spectacular seamount ranges into the network of marine protected areas. An Oceana expedition to the area in October 2012 documented species never before seen in these seamounts, including branching black coral, roughskin dogfish, and others. Unfortunately, the expedition also documented the invasive presence of litter, debris, and fishing gear, particularly in the rocky seabeds of the banks.
The Chilean Government announced its intention to expand the Salas y Gómez marine reserve and to create a smaller reserve off the coast of Easter Island. The government also announced a plan to develop an assessment and status report of the main fisheries of Easter Island. The announcement follows several expeditions to the islands and years of campaigning by Oceana.
At international delegation passed new conservation measures that will protect more than 16.1 million square miles of seafloor habitat in the North Pacific Ocean from bottom trawling and other bottom contact gear. Participating nations, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, Russia, China, Korea and Taiwan, PoC, Province of China, acted on a commitment they made at the United Nations General Assembly to enact interim conservation measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems, like seamounts, deep-sea corals and hydrothermal vents, in international waters. Oceana and others have been working to advance these measures since 2006.
Chile Creates Marine Reserve Around Salas y Gómez Island
Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera announced the creation of Salas y Gómez Marine Park, a no-take marine reserve of 150,000 square kilometers around Salas y Gómez island. The decision came after a preliminary expedition to Salas y Gómez by Oceana, National Geographic and the Waitt Foundation, in which they found abundant populations of vulnerable species such as sharks and lobsters and unexpectedly high biodiversity in deeper waters.
The new park expands Chile’s total marine protected area more than 100 times, from 0.03% to 4.41%.
The Chilean Senate’s Fisheries Committee unanimously agreed that the Chilean government should establish a 200 nautical mile marine protected area around the Island of Salas y Gómez, near Easter Island. Oceana and National Geographic have been promoting the protection of this area, which still remains virtually unexplored, and which may well be one of the last pristine vulnerable marine ecosystems in the Pacific.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) approved a plan to protect more than 23,000 square miles of known deep sea coral from North Carolina to Florida from destructive fishing gear. The plan, proposed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in September 2009, will ban the use of bottom-damaging fishing gear in the largest known area of healthy deep sea coral ecosystems in the world, helping to ensure the productivity of commercial fisheries that depend on them.
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council approved a plan to protect more than 23,000 square miles of known deep-sea coral from North Carolina to Florida from destructive fishing gear. Five years in the making, the vote will restrict the footprint of bottom trawls – one of the most nonselective fishing gears currently in use, capable of destroying thousand-year-old coral reefs and moving 18-ton rocks – and help to restore the long-term productivity of commercially valuable fish that take refuge in these rare corals.
The Oregon state legislature passed a bill to establish Oregon’s first two marine reserves and a protected area in its coastal waters, and defined a two year process to evaluate and implement additional areas to build a network of protected areas and reserves. Oceana worked to identify the Important Ecological Areas off the Oregon coast and with a coalition of conservationists, scientists, and local communities, advanced a statewide proposal to protect Oregon’s coastal ocean ecosystem.