Mediterranean countries unite to protect unique deep-sea coral from fishing impacts

The measures will protect Cabliers Bank, the only cold-water coral reef known to be growing in the Mediterranean and first researched by Oceana Mediterranean states also agree to adopt measures to act against those that do not comply with fishing rules.

Mediterranean countries have agreed to ban any kind of bottom fishing, including destructive fishing like bottom trawling, in a 400 km2  area around the unique deep-sea coral of Cabliers Bank in 2024. The measure will prevent any deterioration of this fragile biodiversity hotspot located in the Alboran Sea between Spain and Morocco.

The decision took place at the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean’s (GFCM) annual meeting. Cabliers Bank is a seamount that harbours semi-pristine species such as deep-sea white corals (Desmophyllum pertusum and Madrepora oculata) and offers shelter and nursery for several commercial stocks such as Norway lobster and blackspot seabream. The coral mound is over 400,000 years old. Bottom trawling can destroy such fragile ecosystems in just one passing.

Vera Coelho, deputy vice-president at Oceana in Europe, said: “The decision to protect the Cabliers reef from bottom trawling is a great win for marine ecosystems and is an example to be followed by Mediterranean countries to deliver their conservation targets and rebuild fish stocks. We particularly commend the leadership of the European Commission, Morocco, and Algeria in this decision.”

In March 2023, the Spanish National Research Council (ICM-CSIC) carried out an international research campaign to Cabliers Bank which confirmed the uniqueness and rich biodiversity around the reef and reinforced the need for its protection. Claudio Lo Iacono, senior scientist at the Marine Sciences Institute of the Spanish National Research Council (ICM-CSIC), said: “Cabliers Bank is a unique deep-sea sanctuary where corals and associated species, including commercial and critically endangered ones, thrive, spawn and grow under the most optimal conditions throughout their entire life cycle. The high fish biomass here likely spills over and benefits surrounding areas. Protecting Cabliers is the wisest thing we can do.”

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