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Blog Posts by: Ricardo Aguilar

Again we have been travelling overnight to take maximum advantage of the hours of light. At 7:00 am we are in the Gulf of Almería, opposite Roquetas de Mar. We will stay here for some days to study marine meadows. The location is perfect, because this area hosts three seagrass species: Posidonia oceanica, Cymodocea nodosa and Zostera marina.

After sailing all night, we start the day on the coast of Almería, in the Golfo de Vera. We get ready to work in a seagrass meadow of mixed phanerogams (Posidonia oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa). On our first dive we concentrate on the deepest zone (at about 25 meters), where there is an interesting seafloor. This is the domain of Posidonia oceanica, although there are some common sargasso weed (Sargassum vulgare) on the rocks. We also spot the beautiful red algae Galaxaura oblongata.

We left the La Manga area of the Mar Menor in the early hours of the morning so as to arrive at dawn at the next point where we will dive: Isla de las Palomas. This is a small island south-west of Cartagena that has been declared a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA). However, as is often the case in protection areas, only the part above sea level is classified as such.

Yesterday was a day of testing. We worked out how to make the best use of the grids, rulers and other equipment that we have with us on board to assess the density of plants and marine algae on the sea floor. In the process, we also tested the coordination between all the team members. For that purpose, we headed towards the coast of Altea, where the extension of a marina has damaged the seagrass meadow of Posidonia oceanica and has also affected some areas of another seagrass species, Cymodocea nodosa.

Mud and sand. That is what we are looking for. The sea floors made up of fine sediment are usually forgotten by marine conservationists and considered "dispensable" when discussing underwater sewage pipeline installations, high-impact fishing methods or any other activity that is considered necessary but damaging. These marine "deserts" are not as popular as rocky sea floors, walls covered in gorgonias and sponges, marine prairies or other ecosystems that are more pleasing to the eye.

“Placer de la Barra Alta” is the strange name given to a small hillock measuring 60-70 meters in height located a few miles west-southwest of the Columbretes Islands. It rises from a flat sea floor at 80 meters and some of its peaks rise up to just 9 meters below the surface. It is not an extensive area, although the sea bed is quite interesting. Since this area is not protected like Columbretes, the sea bed is more deteriorated: we found fishing line and nets caught on the rocks and no sign of any large sessile animals (attached to the substrate).

Today is our third and last day in Columbretes. We will concentrate on the exterior west section of Isla Grossa. The wall is more prominent here and thanks to this, there are many communities of sponges and corals, such as scleractinian and stoloniferous corals. There is also more movement and currents in this area and, consequently, some species can be seen here which usually inhabit open waters, such as the greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili) or the European barracuda (Sphyraena sphyraena).

We have spent the night anchored in the crater of the volcano that "gave birth" to Isla Grossa. During the night, the petrels give us a concert with their distinctive chants: the sounds they make are like a baby crying. Luckily, at night the temperature has been more mild, compared to the intolerable heat we must face during the day.

This new day of diving will take us to Isla Ferrera. There, we would like to film and photograph some species in detail which we have already identified, so this time we will be prepared with the macro.

After leaving Torredembarra at night, we saw various ships pass by us at sunrise, including cruise ships, cargo ships, etc. Further away, more or less two miles away, we saw a trawler. When we reached the area, we saw dozens of dead fish on the surface, mainly bogues (Boops boops), most probably the frequent leftovers of these trawlers. We have collected some with the fish net in order to identify and examine them. Many of them had suffered some injury, while others were completely destroyed.

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