Deep Coral Project

A submerged paradise discovered

Deep beneath the waters around the Spanish coast exist amazing communities of deep sea corals. WWF-Spain is working to ensure that these important coral communities around Spain are protected.

About the project
WWF was invited to participate in the Deep Coral Project on board the Oceanographic Research Vessel García del Cid. This project lead by Dr. Josep Maria Gili from the Marine Sciences Institute of Barcelona (CSIC) is looking for scientific evidences on the presence and abundance of deep-water corals in the western Mediterranean and the effects of human activity on these valuable habitats.

The research was carried out over six days off the north-east coast of Spain, at the Creus submarine canyon, one of the twenty marine submerged paradises selected by WWF due to its biological importance and that are not properly protected in Spain. » Learn about WWF's proposal to create a Marine Protected Areas network around Spain (in Spanish)

With the help of an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) the reseachers filmed and took samples down to a depth of 300 metres.
Diagram of the WWF-Spain Deep Coral Project. / ©: Nigel Allan / WWF
Diagram of the WWF-Spain Deep Coral Project. Click to enlarge.
© Nigel Allan / WWF
© WWF / Pilar Marcos © WWF / Pilar Marcos © WWF / Pilar Marcos © WWF / Pilar Marcos © WWF / Pilar Marcos © WWF / Pilar Marcos © WWF / Pilar Marcos © Marine Sciences Institute of Barcelona © Marine Sciences Institute of Barcelona © Marine Sciences Institute of Barcelona © WWF / Pilar Marcos
Video of deep sea coral captured by the ROV

For the first time in the western Mediterranean Sea, researchers filmed with the help of an ROV, communities of deep sea corals (Madrepora oculata and Lophelia pertusa). A constant rain of nutrients can be seen as they fall from the surface. In marine biology this is referred to as "snow".

© Marine Science Institute of Barcelona (CSIC)

Threats to the deep sea

Currently, the greatest threat to deep sea coral and other species is deep sea fishing (bottom trawling).

'Ghost nets' kill coral communities

The Deep Coral expedition highlighted the impact of ‘ghost nets’ in some parts of the canyon. Ghost nets are abandoned pieces of bottom-trawler or long-lines nets that keep fishing unattended on the seafloor. They kill living coral communities leaving behind a deserted seafloor.

Other threats include overfishing and oil and gas exploration.

Learn more about the threats to the deep sea>>

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