In the Mediterranean Sea, gorgonians are among the main habitat-forming species of benthic communities on the continental shelf and slope, playing an important ecological role in coral gardens. Since gorgonians are long-lived and slow-growing species, impacts derived from fishing activities can have far-reaching and long-lasting effects, jeopardizing their long-term viability.
In this study, bycatch gorgonians from artisanal fishermen were transplanted into artificial structures, which were then deployed at 85 m depth on the outer continental shelf of the marine protected area of Cap de Creus (Spain, NW Mediterranean Sea). Survival rates were recorded with a hybrid remotely operated vehicle.
The obtained results showed high survival rates (87%) after one year.
The authors highlight that his study has assessed, for the first time, the feasibility of successfully returning bycatch gorgonians recovered from artisanal fishery to their natural environment on the Mediterranean continental shelf. The study suggests as well the potential success of future scaled-up restoration activities.
Montseny et al. (2019) First attempts towards the restoration of gorgonian populations on the Mediterranean continental shelf. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 29:1278-1284.