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Balearic Seamounts Expedition 2014

This expedition aims to document and map a series of seamounts in the Mallorca Channel (Emile Baudot, Ausias March and Ses Olives) as well as the coralligenous reef called Fort d’en Moreu, which lies east of the Cabrera archipelago.

Diaries

El Mediterráneo está sufriendo una crisis ambiental de la que apenas se habla: es el mar con más sobrepesca del mundo, y cada vez hay menos peces en él. Como encontrar soluciones es una cuestión política, Oceana organizó un evento en el Congreso de los Diputados el día 14 con el apoyo de Equo-Unidos Podemos. Reunimos a científicos, políticos y pescadores, para analizar qué está ocurriendo y qué podemos hacer al respecto.

Last day of the campaign, the wind was high and we were trying to find a place to put the ROV out into the water one more time. We could do 5 new ROV dives  in the bottoms around Sa Dragonera Island, as we considered the SCI (Site of Community Importance) Sa Dragonera should be expanded to increase its ecological value. We found  rhodoliths beds and sand bottoms with several rocks and plenty of sponges, gorgonians and soft and hard corals.

Once we reached the station,  it takes the ROV around 40 to 50 minutes to reach 800 meters deep if the sea is not rough. Ses Olives is home to protected species like black corals, in addition the presence of other habitats that hold dead-corals and mollusks reefs justify its protection.

We were in the north, west and southern unknown -until today- sides of the seamount, gathering new data on its biodiversity and taking samples with the ROV´s arm.

Weather conditions kept changing so we had to move to an area closer to the island of Mallorca.

We need supplies so we made a stop in Ibiza, waiting for fuel in the morning and ready to restart our work out . There´s wifi signal and we take advantage to check our mails.  The Official Gazette of the Government of Spain (BOE- Boletin Oficial del Estado)  has just published the protection of the Fort d ´en Moreu and seamountains in Ausias Marc and Emile Baudot against bottom trawling. This is a great victory for OCEANA and for the Mediterranean Sea!

The weather hasn´t improved today, we are in the immersion point but the waves are rather high. We started preparing the equipment in case the weather becomes benevolent, so we can put the ROV out into the water. It is nine o´clock in the morning and the operation starts. The way to the bottom is a long journey, after almost one hour we are sailing over a small mount in the Southeast of Emile Baudot´s peak.  In our way down we found transparent marine animals of phantasmagoric appearance but very pretty indeed, they are called ctenophores.

In our first immersion today at more than 900 meters deep we found a group of deep-sea sharks.

We explored some volcanic pinnacles near Emile Baudot. Back in 2013 we found stony sponges in a seamount in Gulf of Valencia, now we could see them here.  This is the second time these sponges are ever documented in the Mediterranean Sea in addition to just a few of them that have been sighted in the rest of the world.

We spent the night in Porto Colom, surrounded by fishing boats, long liners and bottom trawlers. The atmosphere was a bit strange, as fishermen were staring at our t-shirts with the Oceana logo, and seemed to know us. Today, a reporter is on board with us from the TV show, Thalassa. We begin to head back to the east of Cabrera. A new ROV immersion and transects (the path of the ROV when it is submerged into the ocean) complete our work in the area.

We have finished research on the planned points of the expedition, but because the weather is so good, we are extending the area to be surveyed in order to check and know better the extent to which the protected area should be expanded. We are moving forward with work in the Fort d’en Moreu area, and have carried out ROV dives in ten stations. We have filmed trawling marks over rhodoliths.

The first light of day passes through the porthole; the sea is calm and quiet. Several seabirds are welcoming the day. We are already in the next diving station.  The first time we put the ROV in the water we had a problem with the high definition camera, and had to abort the immersion. After that tense moment, all is well and we can restart the work again.

After ten years of expeditions, once again another Oceana campaign kicks off.

This time, the goal is to document the seamounts in the Mallorca Channel through video and bionomic mapping.  It is now eight o’clock sharp, and the Cathedral of Palma is disappearing from view, and the bow of the ship is pointing towards the Cabrera archipelago.

In just a few hours, we will reach our first area of work: the Fort d’en Moreu, a coralligenous reef just outside the Eastern boundaries of the National Park of Cabrera.

Up Next:

The Crew