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Blog Posts by: Ricardo Aguilar

Off the east coast of Formentera there are areas where we can find a combination of walls full of sponges, rocky zones and sandy areas with Posidonia oceanica. Here we can see bigscale scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa), cardinal fish (Apogon imberbis), peacock wrasse (Symphodus tinca) and red mullet (Mullus barbatus). There is also a wide range of sponges, with species from the genera of Tenacior, Crambe, Sarcotragus, Cacospongia, Chondrosia, Oscarella, etc.

The day starts off a little cloudy, but the sea is fairly calm. We head towards the south-west of Ibiza to document some coralligenous and rocky sea beds in this area. At Es Vedra we want to take a look at the state of the red gorgonians (Paramuricea clavata). On approaching the area, we admire the beauty of the two little islands and their steep cliffs where some Eleanor’s falcons are breeding (Falco eleonorae). We need to dive to below 35 metres to get a good look at the largest gorgonians.

A little bit of everything today: marine meadow, Cystoseira sp. forests, rocky walls and caves.

There is also a ‘fish cleaning station’ in this area. Instead of yesterday’s shrimps, the species in charge of the task today is the tort (Symphodus melanocercus), and its customers are mainly peacock wrasse (Symphodus tinca) and damselfish (Chromis chromis), which, to request this de-lousing service, remain quite still in the Posidonia meadow in an almost vertical position.

The condition of the sea continues to be perfect for our work. In the morning we had arranged to meet the people from the Marine Reserve, who are helping us to locate dive zones. We will be starting with a sandy sea bed with a few thickets of Posidonia oceanica where a metal structure has sunk which is being covered by native flora and fauna. This is a regular haunt of yellowmouth barracuda (Sphyraena viridensis) and dusky grouper (Epinephelus marginatus).

Today is the start of the final part of this year’s expedition. We’re going to be taking samples from the sea beds around the Balearic Islands using divers, a robot submarine and dredging to classify the different biological communities in the area. During the first few days we’ll be diving between Ibiza and Formentera, and later on we’ll be heading for to Majorca and Minorca.

Yesterday, the ROV technicians arrived in order to prepare the equipment and begin our investigations in the waters of the Chella Massif (Macizo de Chella), also known as Seco de los Olivos.

The ROV is a submarine Robot that allows us to film sea floors at depths which are impossible for divers to reach. Our idea is to work from the surface of this small marine mountain, which is at 70-80 meters, down to 240 meters depth.

There are deep water waves and an easterly wind is blowing, but the conditions are still acceptable for working. Tomorrow, the weather may worsen. We must take advantage of the weather today to continue filming life amongst the prairies of Cymodocea nodosa. The upper limit of the prairie is at 10 meters depth and the plant's shafts are more and more scattered. From here to the coast, it is a muddy area.

We being our dive in the area between El Plomo and Punta del Bergantín at 18 to 30 meters depth. We will combine two areas, one sandy, rocky bottom and a wall including some caves. In the sandy area, we find some rhodoliths or maerl, but very few. Here, the Lithothamnium is stuck to the rocks and covers some areas. We see a large tube anemone (Cerianthus membranaceus) and some unusual looking sponges (Petrosia ficiformis) that eat spotted sea slugs (Discodoris atromaculata) and large quantities of hydrozoa, such as the Aglaophenia pluma.

Early in the morning, we set up a meeting with the people in charge of the Cabo de Gata Marine Reserve in order to prepare a work plan. They come aboard at 09:00 in the morning and we exchange opinions about the best dive sites. They are exceptional collaborators, and we will also receive help from two volunteers who know this area very well and who will guide us during these few days. José Ramón Chicano y María del Mar Campra come aboard the Ranger and we set sail towards our first destination; it is Piedra de los Meros.

After one day and a half in Aguadulce port working on the boat, doing some shopping and changing crews, we set sail towards the coasts of Almería to continue our work. We need to continue to document the marine prairies on the sea floors in that area. We would also like to see what state they are in.

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