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Scientists and fishermen will cooperate to replant the by-catch gorgonians

Gorgonians will be replanted in the same zones where they were accidentally fished. Gorgonians create habitats where fish larvae and juveniles find shelter and food. Led by the CSIC, the project counts on the contribution of fishermen, and Fundación Biodiversidad from the Spanish MAPAMA.


Gorgonian chorals on the seabed (ICM-CSIC).Scientists from the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar in Barcelona (ICM-CSIC), with the support of Fundación Biodiversidad, of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Enviroment, have launched the project ResCap, aimed at the preservation and recovery of gorgonian populations. The project is developed in the frame of Pleamar Program of the Fundación Biodiversidad, with the support of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

The main goal of the project is to recover deep marine ecosystems of the continental shelf in the Cap de Creus. This area was recently declared as European Site of Community Importance as part of the Natura 2000 network.

The Project, led by Andrea Gori, a CSIC scientists in the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar (ICM-CSIC), will develop innovative ways to recover marine habitats. The scientists will work together with artisanal fishermen from Port de la Selva and Cadaqués.

The fishermen, with scientific help, will carefully collect the gorgonians which have been accidentally fished, and will take them to the recovery centers settled for the project in Port de la Selva and Cadaqués. In the centers’ facilities, scientists will heal the gorgonians and prepare them to be replanted. To do so, they will use a technique that copies the way fishermen from Menorca Channel return the by-catch gorgonians to the sea.

The gorgonian chorals will be taken to the recovery centers, to be healed and prepared for replantation

“In Menorca”, explains Andrea Gori, “gorgonians  grow on a ground of cobbles. When gorgonian specimens are accidentally trapped in the nets, fishermen immediately and carefully disentangle them from the net and return them back to the water. As the gorgonians are attached on round stones, they perfectly land in upright position on the seabed and keep growing”.  

The campaign will take place from April to September, during the artisanal fishing season. Until then, the scientists will prepare the recovery centers and will have regular meetings with the fishermen in order to prepare the strategy.

The sea nursery

The area where scientists and fishermen will work is the seabed between 80 and 120 meters depth, in the Cap de Creus. There, gorgonians are the most abundant structural species that creates habitats, playing an essential role as a shelter for fish and crustacean larvae and juveniles.

These habitats are the ‘nurseries’ of the sea, essential for the recovery of commercial species and for the protection of biodiversity. As scientists explain, “these zones can be compared to the trees in the land, which create habitats for many animals, birds and mammals. Destruction of these species, which grow very slowly, implies the destruction of many animal habitats”.  

“This is one of the first projects of restoration and mitigation of the fishing impacts made in cooperation with artisanal fishermen of the zone”, says Josep-Maria Gili, a CSIC research professor at the ICM-CSIC. “Here is one of the few places in Spain where an agreement between fishermen, scientists and administration has been reached, in order to preserve the sea bottom and where people have understood that preserving doesn’t mean ‘banning’ but ‘doing things better”.

The Cap de Creus has been declared European Site of Community Importance. To go further and obtain the declaration of Marine Protected Area, it is compulsory to have a Managemen Plan. “Our goal”, says Gili, “is to help in developing this Management Plan and to make the sustainable exploitation of the zone compatible with their protection; we want this project to be an example for other Mediterranean coastal areas.”