Regarded as an untouched enclave in the Atlantic, the Gorringe now displays signs of pollution due to human activity.
Deep-sea sharks, hydrocoral, glass sponges, and black coral, among the new findings in these seamounts.
Oceana has documented the presence of litter and fishing gear in one of Europe’s major seamounts, the Gorringe bank. The images were taken during an expedition with researchers from the University of Algarve, in which stunning algae forests and a wide range of habitats with hundreds of species were filmed. Due to this great biodiversity, Oceana requests that protection of this enclave be promoted.
Gorringe is one of the marine mountainous areas with the widest range of environments. This spectacular underwater mountain range, more than 250 km off the Portuguese coast, rises from a depth of 5,000 m to 30 m below the surface.
Though some areas are completely untouched, some rocky bottoms are already strongly affected by human activity, with abandoned fishing gear, such as creels, fishing lines, nets, and ropes.
“During last year’s expedition we found some new species whose existence in the Gorringe was unknown, such as branching black coral, hydrocoral, dogfish, bird’s nest sponge, and various gorgonia”, says Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana in Europe. “There are dozens of species which have not been identified yet. We hope that they will provide new data on these ecosystems, and facilitate the protection and conservation of this unique enclave.”
The seamounts are visited by great pelagic species, such as whales, dolphins, and swordfish, and birds such as small petrels or shearwaters abound.
The peaks are covered by algae forests, particularly kelp. Large schools of amberjack, horse mackerel, and barracuda concentrate above the highest peaks, and detritic bottoms, covered in the remains of coral, bryozoans, and molluscs, abound in deeper areas, are inhabited by dragon fish, fan corals, pink frogmouths, and bird’s nest sponges.
“This year we have carried out dives to observe species in deeper areas that swim up the seamount sides seeking prey. We found various deep-sea sharks and other fish that are generally harder to observe”, states Aguilar.
The images and samples collected will be analysed by Oceana and the University of Algarve, which collaborates in these expeditions.
Oceana obtained the first images of the Gorringe bank during an expedition in 2005. Thanks to the support of the Drittes Millenium foundation, the international organisation for marine conservation documented various areas of the Gorringe in 2011 and 2012 in order to obtain data supporting its protection.