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Atlantic Islands

Atlantic Islands

Located in the Rías Baixas, the National Park of the Atlantic Islands in Galicia is made up of the archipelagos of Cortegada, Sálvora, Ons and Cíes. Declared a national park in 2002, it covers a total of 8,480 ha, of which 7,285 ha are marine.

Overview

Located in the Rías Baixas, the National Park of the Atlantic Islands in Galicia is made up of the archipelagos of Cortegada, Sálvora, Ons and Cíes. Declared a national park in 2002, it covers a total of 8,480 ha, of which 7,285 ha are marine.

Located in the Rías Baixas, the National Park of the Atlantic Islands in Galicia is made up of the archipelagos of Cortegada, Sálvora, Ons and Cíes. Declared a national park in 2002, it covers a total of 8,480 ha, of which 7,285 ha are marine.

It is one of the few Spanish national parks to have a marine area, along with Doñana, with its narrow strip of sea adjoining the park of 4,778.96 hectares as an impact buffer zone, and Cabrera, with 8,703 marine hectares.

The submerged area has a mosaic of habitats that support an extraordinary diversity of species of flora and fauna, although the forests of brown algae are particularly important. The Ministry regards its conservation status is generally good, although it may suffer damage by human activity: oil spills, pollution from the estuary, the risk of over-exploitation of fishery resources and the use of fishing gear and techniques that are harmful to the environment.

What Oceana Does

Submarine forests documented

Oceana carried out an expedition in the area in 2008, during which divers and ROVs (submarine robots) documented the waters of the national park and the surrounding areas. The expedition confirmed that this was an area of great interest, with extensive and healthy forests of kelp and dense aggregations of gorgonians and deep-sea corals.

For example, in the Sisargas Islands we found the sponge Artemisina transiens, which had not been seen since it had first been described in 1892. In these islands, already well known for their importance for migratory species, a wide variety of algae was documented, including lush forests of kelp. These habitats provide shelter to numerous species, including cetaceans such as pilot whales and dolphins. 

Proposal for protection

In 2009, Oceana presented the results of the campaign and proposed areas to be protected. First, it presented a study on areas of importance for the conservation of cetaceans, followed by a report on areas important for the conservation of benthic species. Thus, Oceana proposes to expand the national park to protect threatened species, such as the bottlenose dolphin and porpoise, and habitats of interest, such as the kelp forests and the deep-sea coral aggregations.

Oceana proposes an expansion of around 12,500 ha to incorporate the seabeds off Ons and Sálvora and to add the Sisargas islands. This expansion would increase the representation of different natural systems, outstanding among which are: (1) Communities of photophilic and laminaria algae, since large kelp forests would be included; (2) Rocky bottoms, in which gardens of gorgonians and different types of sponges are found; (3) Pelagic areas of passage, reproduction or with the habitual presence of cetaceans or large migratory fish, since dolphins, porpoises, pilot whales and rorquals can be seen in this area; and (4) Banks of deep-sea corals, with significant aggregations of yellow tree coral (Dendrophyllia cornigera).

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