Oceana has spent five years studying this seamount, located to the south of Almería and site of many findings of great scientific interest
The ministry has proposed to include four more areas of the LIFE+ INDEMARES project in the Natura 2000 network, which gives protection to the most important natural areas in the EU
Oceana applauds the protection of Seco de los Olivos, a seamount 12 nautical miles south of the coast of Almerimar (Almería) that the international marine conservation organisation has been studying for five years. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment has proposed to the European Union the declaration of “South of Almería-Seco de los Olivos” and four other areas also documented under the LIFE+ INDEMARES project as Sites of Community Importance. All will become part of the Natura 2000 network, the network that gathers together the most valuable natural areas of the EU.
“Seco de los Olivos is an example of the importance of seamounts as biodiversity hotspots. In it, we have found endangered species, others barely known in the Mediterranean and even some that are new to science. Research by Oceana over five years shows how little is known about this seabed even close to the shore and the urgent need to actively protect this before the amount of rubbish found here surpasses that of the species of scientific interest,” explains Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana in Europe.
The South of Almeria-Seco de los Olivos SCI covers 285,037.7 hectares, equivalent to one third of the province of Almería. Within it is the Seco de los Olivos or Chella Bank, consisting of a main elevation and several pinnacles surrounding it. The range of depths varies between 76 and 700 metres below the surface, so that it can only be studied with a submarine robot, and the complexity of the job meant that the final report to protect the area required the participation of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, in addition to Oceana.
In Seco, Oceana has made several findings of scientific interest, such as a new species of glass sponge, and has also filmed Asbestopluma hypogea, a carnivorous sponge that had not been seen before in Spanish waters. Other vulnerable species which are protected by law have also been found, such as red coral (Corallium rubrum) and various species of black coral.
Among the fish, species included in the IUCN Red List have been documented, such as the angular roughshark (Oxynotus centrina, a Critically Endangered species in the Mediterranean) and the gulper shark (Centrophorus granulosus, Vulnerable). In addition, Seco de los Olivos is a nursery area for several species of commercial interest such as hake (Merluccius merluccius), included in the list of vulnerable species in the Mediterranean.
Oceana has also sampled other zones within the protected area, such as the Gata canyon and the Sabinar bank, where there have also been important finds, such as large fields of “sea lilies” or crinoids. During the expeditions different species have been sighted on the surface. The Alboran Sea is a priority area in the migrations of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and of diverse species of cetaceans such as bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales. The western end of the Mediterranean is outstanding for the diversity and abundance of cetaceans, since it has both resident populations and others that use it as a migratory corridor.
Coordinated by Fundación Biodiversidad, the project LIFE+ INDEMARES has a participative focus and integrates the work of leading institutions in the areas of administration, research and marine environment conservation: the Ministry of the Environment, and Rural Environment and Marine Environment (through the Secretariat General of the Sea), the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, the Superior Board of Scientific Research, Alnitak, the Coordinator for the Study of Marine Mammals, Oceana, the Society for the Study of Cetaceans in the Canary Archipelago, SEO/BirdLife and WWF Spain.
The areas included in the ministerial order published today in the Official State Gazette (BOE) are: the Avilés system of submarine canyons, South Almería – Seco de los Olivos, the Alborán marine protected area, the Columbretes Islands marine protected area and the Concepción Bank. In July the western system of submarine canyons in the Gulf of Lions, the Channel of Menorca, the mud volcanoes of the Gulf of Cadiz and the Bank of Galicia were protected, and a tenth area is pending, the East and South of Lanzarote-Fuerteventura marine area.