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Marine Habitats in the Mediterranean

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The Mediterranean Sea represents a vast feeding ground and spawning ground for many fish species. Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn in the Mediterranean which makes the Balearic waters a key place for its survival. Many marine mammals also live here, some of them clearly in danger of extinction.

The deep waters of the Mediterranean are the most surprising area in this sea. Historically unknown, only deep-sea fisheries and limited scientific research work has revealed information about the habitats and species that live on these sea beds. The urgent need to protect the oceans has stimulated research in deeper areas and the findings are numerous. Gorgonian gardens, kelp forests, bamboo coral and maërl beds, deep-sea sponge fields and impressive coralline communities are being identified and documented and are still in a good state of conservation, although seriously threatened.

Marine phanerogams, coralligenous communities and maërl beds have managed to achieve protection from destructive fishing practices. The biological importance and vulnerability of these ecosystems has been championed by Oceana from the outset.

With the end of 2017, four deep-sea coral species were announced to be protected in the Mediterranean, as a result of Oceana’s advocacy work & scientific support. The UN’s Barcelona Convention, a regional sea convention, including 22 members, voted in favor of adding four additional coral species – cockscomb cup coral, yellow-tree coral, yellow coral and bamboo coral – to the list of endangered or threatened species in the Mediterranean Sea. This action will protect these animals and help to ensure the survival of marine life that live and depend on these underwater coral gardens.

The Mediterranean is one of the hotspots of biodiversity on the planet. But the delay in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) designations has led to the accelerated loss of biodiversity, likely irreversible in some cases.

In 2011, Oceana launched Oceana MedNet, the first comprehensive proposal for a network of MPAs in the Mediterranean that-addresses deep-sea areas and details specific locations. The proposal includes 100 sites distributed throughout the basin, covering an extension of over 200,000 square km. It includes a wide variety of sites, such as seamounts, banks, canyons, slopes, trenches, ridges, mud volcanoes, gas seeps, carbonate mounts, etc. Although these habitats are less well-known than seagrass beds or coral reefs, they are equally important.