The analysis of the information obtained will be completed in 2013, and will serve to protect the area by means of its inclusion in the Natura 2000 network.
The Oceana Ranger has completed its 2012 Expedition, “Exploring ocean depths”, and documented, for the third year in a row, the Seco de los Olivos or Chella Bank seamount, off the shore of Almería (South-East Spain). The underwater robot (ROV) has recorded more than 100 hours’ worth of footage of its seabeds for the European Union LIFE+ INDEMARES project, whose goal is to expand the Natura 2000 marine network in Spain to add ten new marine areas, including Seco de los Olivos.
Oceana has found protected species and habitats in the area, such as the carnivorous sponge, the angular rough shark, cold-water white coral, and sponge communities, as well as species of commercial interest, from octopus, monkfish, and Norway lobster to scorpionfish and conger eel. Given that this is a seamount, it was expected to find a wide range of communities, as was proved by the research carried out at a depth between 90 and 700 m.
“The images obtained during the LIFE+ INDEMARES programme and in previous expeditions have confirmed that fact that Seco de los Olivos is one of the marine areas with the highest environmental interest in Spain”, says Ricardo Aguilar, Research Director of Oceana in Europe. “However, as this is a small seamount, relatively close to the shore, it is in a state of constant deterioration from recreational and commercial fishing, and so management of the area is urgently needed if we want to preserve its abundant natural wealth”.
In 2013, Fundación Biodiversidad, which coordinates the EU project in Spain, will receive information from its partners on the ten areas under research, and will send it to the Spanish Government. Thus, it is expected that by late 2013 these areas will be part of the process for the designation of Sites of Community Importance in the Natura 2000 marine network in Spain, which in its current state is still insufficient to meet international marine conservation targets.
“Filming rocky sites at various depths requires a high degree of technical complexity, that is why such a detailed investigation as the one performed in Seco de los Olivos is exceptional”, adds Aguilar. “However, it has been known for decades now that seamounts attract a high degree of biodiversity, so they should have adequate protection measures without the need for such exhaustive fieldwork. The United Nations recommends their management, which is not being adequately performed in Spain or in the Mediterranean”.