Oceana applauds yesterday’s decision by Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, to protect the Émile Baudot and Ausiàs March seamounts as well as the Fort d’en Moreu coral reef. The international marine conservation organization spent years documenting these seabeds and actively campaigning for the Spanish and Balearic governments to protect these highly ecologically valuable areas.
"Protecting the Fort d'en Moreu and the Ausiàs March and Émile Baudot seamounts is great news for both the environment and the fishing industry," said Xavier Pastor, oceanographer and executive director of Oceana in Europe. "Oceana spent eight years asking for conservation measures for these Mallorca Channel seamounts, as well as for Ses Olives, which was unfortunately left out of the government’s decision."
The 40,000 hectares that will be covered by this action contain habitats that are protected by national and international regulations. Fort d' en Moreu is an impressive coralligenous reef located east of Cabrera, which boasts gorgonian gardens and Mediterranean kelp forests. The area, which has been subjected to illegal trawling, was proposed by Oceana to be integrated into Cabrera National Park.
Though today’s decision is to be commended, it is important to note that the government is merely complying with national and European legislation, which has, since 2006, required the protection of these habitats. While this is indeed a time to celebrate, it is also vital that Cabrera National Park be expanded and both Émile Baudot and Ausiàs March are included in a large Marine Protected Area .
Oceana’s expeditions, the most recent of which took place last year, revealed new data on threatened species and habitats that highlights the value of these areas. It is Oceana’s hope that protection will soon follow for other ecologically important ecosystems found in and around these seamounts, which have so far been excluded, such as bamboo coral forests, gorgonian gardens, and sponge aggregations.