Mediterranean countries to decide on possible protection of corals threatened with extinction | Oceana

Mediterranean countries to decide on possible protection of corals threatened with extinction

Press Release Date: December 15, 2017

Location: Tirana, Albania


Anna Baxter | email:
Anna Baxter

As the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention are due to meet in Tirana, Oceana calls on the Mediterranean countries to approve a proposal to protect four threatened deep-sea corals. Despite not being of any commercial interest, these corals are vulnerable to the impact of human activity, in particular destructive fishing practices. Particularly noteworthy among these is the bamboo coral, which is found at depths of up to 4,000 metres and is in critical danger.

“Deep-sea corals are not well known, but their fragility and need for protection is beyond question. If countries do not support basic measures to ensure their conservation, they will be compromising their survival and that of the many other species that depend on the corals, some of which are indeed of commercial interest,” explains Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe.

The deep-sea coral reefs are in decline and the Mediterranean is home to some of the deepest in European waters, with species reaching depths of several thousand metres. Their conservation depends on a United Nations agreement known as the Barcelona Convention. In 2013, Spain began promoting the inclusion of new species of deep-sea coral in the convention’s annexes and almost four years later the official proposal was presented.

The 22 contracting parties to the Convention will meet starting on Sunday, and if the decision is approved, the necessary management measures will need to be taken soon, to prevent further adverse effects on the corals and their habitats. At the meeting, a decision is also due to be made on the protection of a corridor for cetaceans off the eastern coast of Spain.

  • Bamboo coral (Isidella elongata) is considered practically endemic to the Mediterranean. It is estimated that its population has decreased by 80% in the last hundred years and that is why it is classified as Critically Endangered in this sea. Its decline affects many species of prawn and fish associated with these coral gardens, such as the hake, which uses them as breeding grounds.
  • Yellow tree coral (Dendrophyllia cornigera) and yellow coral (D. ramea) appear on the red list as Endangered and Vulnerable species, respectively. They suffer the effects of fishing techniques that have an aggressive impact on the seabed. Yellow tree coral is documented at depths of 800 metres and its colonies can reach a metre in height.
  • The cockscomb cup coral (Desmophyllum dianthus) is considered Endangered and it is estimated that its population has been reduced by half in the last 60-70 years. Experts believe that this decline cannot be stopped unless conservation measures are taken. It lives at depths of between 200 and 1,200 metres.