The comprehensive collection of information is the result of over 60 hours of recording, filmed during 3 campaigns.
Oceana scientists have identified more than 350 species on the Gorringe seamount, located in Portuguese waters, 160 nautical miles south-west of Cape St Vincent. The documentation of this great biodiversity, undertaken with the support of the Foundation for the Third Millennium, will be extremely useful in the process of protecting these seamounts, initiated by the Portuguese Government.
“Oceana's expeditions represent one of the most exhaustive contributions to the knowledge base regarding these seamounts, which are of high ecological value, and justify the need to initiate a process of protection for the Gorringe Bank. Therefore, all the documentation has been made available to the Portuguese institutions, with which Oceana is currently collaborating, in order to start the procedures for the conservation process,” says Ricardo Aguilar, research director of Oceana in Europe.
The information was obtained during three campaigns which the international marine conservation organisation carried out during 2005, 2011 and 2012. During these expeditions, 21 dives were made with a submarine robot (ROV), resulting in over 50 hours of recording. The study was complemented with more than 10 hours filmed by a team of divers along with more than 2,200 photographs. With the information gathered, Oceana has documented numerous habitats and species listed as threatened or vulnerable by various international organisations (OSPAR, ICES).
During the expeditions, vulnerable species such as deep sea corals and sponges have been documented, for example the red gorgonian and the glass sponge, which are crucial for the shelter and protection of many other organisms. It has also been possible to observe numerous species of commercial interest, such as swordfish and lobster, as well as highly migratory pelagic species such as basking sharks, loggerhead turtles and cetaceans such as fin whales and pilot whales.
“This large number of species identified – approximately 125 per hectare sampled – is only the beginning, as there are hundreds of sponges, bryozoans, hydrozoans etc. whose characterisation by naked eye is very difficult and requires more sophisticated sampling techniques,” explains Helena Álvarez, marine scientist at Oceana.
Despite the extensive work of Oceana and the technological resources that have been employed for this purpose, further research is needed to gather more information that will help to protect both these mountains and the numerous other seamounts in the north-east Atlantic that are still unprotected.
Further information: Gorringe Bank