Aquaculture for all

Expedition Identifies Over 100 Marine Species

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PORTUGAL - Oceana identified over 100 different marine species on Gorringe seamount after completing a scientific expedition in the Portuguese Atlantic during recent weeks with support from the Foundation for the Third Millennium.

Apart from important kelp forests, the international marine conservation organisation documented deep-sea sponge fields, black coral forests, extensive oyster beds and over 100 different species including spotted dolphin, Minke whales, sea pens, slipper lobsters and fish including orange roughies, longspine snipefish, morays and conger eels.

The findings reflect the areas high levels of marine biodiversity and richness and, in Oceanas opinion, justify the inclusion of this seamount in the Natura 2000 Network, Europe's most important eco-network.

Gorringe bank is an impressive place. The base of the mountain lies on the sea bed at 5,000 meters depth, but its peaks rise up to 30 meters. This means kelp can develop down to 80 meters depth, something that doesnt occur in other areas and would explain this areas high productivity, explains Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana Europe.

During the expedition, a team of specialists, marine scientists and divers collected photographs and video footage and an ROV (underwater robot) was used to record high-resolution images on the sea beds down to 600 meters depth, for subsequent analysis.

By disseminating these preliminary results, Oceana hopes to collaborate with the Portuguese government by providing new scientific information about unexplored areas. This information can be used to identify these as areas of special interest because of the species and habitats they harbor. Furthermore, these areas must be protected in order to comply with European legislation and the different international commitments Portugal has acquired.

Despite the fact that the Habitats Directive was approved 19 years ago, currently only 0.10 per cent of Portuguese marine areas are part of the Natura 2000 Network, making Portugal the EU country with the least percentage of areas designated to form part of this network.

During the biogeographical assessment seminars carried out by the European Commission in 2009 and 2010, the Commission described Portugals network of MPAs as insufficient, both in Macaronesian and peninsular waters, obligating the country to create new MPAs urgently.

Various international conventions, like the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR), and the scientific community in general, consider seamounts to be priority areas due to the biodiversity they harbor. Within the EU, Portugal is the country with the largest marine area and the one with the most number of seamounts in its territory; its responsibility to protect these ecosystems is unquestionable.

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