Sweden: Oceana Identifies Areas in Need of Protection
Oceana has identified Klints Bank and the area East of Gotland as one of the locations in need of protection. As part of its 2012 Baltic Expedition, the marine conservation organization has been conducting extensive research in the past few days to bolster data collected in this same area during last year’s inaugural expedition into the Baltic Sea in support of its designation by the Swedish government as a marine protected area.
The cumulated findings suggest that the environment in the Baltic Sea is not only capable of maintaining important habitats but also boasts species diversity, the likes of which is unexpected at these depths.
Crustaceans, worms and mollusks form most of the communities in the deep soft bottoms, while fish such as cod, scorpion fish and flounder, can be found as deep as 80 meters where the sea floor varies between rocky, sand, clay and muddy bottoms.
“Our team marked the presence of juvenile cod during every dive in the area, some of which were spotted at 76 meters deep – this is a very good sign,” says Hanna Paulomaki, Oceana’s Baltic Sea Project Manager. “We hope the eastern cod stock continues to recover and creating an MPA (Marine Protected Area) in this area would support the recovery.”
Mussels and algae were also spotted covering most of the rocks in the shallowest areas (though some mussels were documented as deep as 52 meters) and providing a substratum for hydroids, bryozoans and barnacles, while seagrass meadows were found spread on sand and cobbles.
In the area East of Gotland, a diverse set of environments from islands, banks, shallow and deep areas each with different bottoms, marks a stark contrast to other areas in the Baltic where there is much seabed monotony and bacteria is the only life that can be found below 50 meters.
Klints bank, the only bank in the Baltic Sea that is surrounded by depths of over 100 meters, is also known for being traversed by big pelagic species like swordfish and sunfish.
The research team onboard the Oceana Hanse Explorer take sea bottom and water samples, document habitats and species using photographs, video, and a remote operated vehicles (ROV), to learn more about the ecosystems from the sea surface to 150 meters deep.
The expedition is funded by contributions from Arcadia, Zennström Philanthropies and the Robertson Foundation.
Subsea World News Staff, May 16, 2012; Image: Oceana