Red coral is one of the most important species belonging to the coralligenous habitats in the Mediterranean Sea, being a structuring organism and highly sensitive to human pressure. The presence of red coral populations is historically well documented along the Campania coast (Tyrrhenian Sea) and due to its high economic value, it has been commercially overharvested since ancient times.

This study assessed coralligenous habitats and red coral populations along several cliffs in the “Regno di Nettuno” MPA (Gulf of Naples) using ROV-imaging techniques. The sites were also assessed in terms of fishing pressure, estimated through lost fishing gear.

The obtained results show “Pizzaco” as the site showing the richest and most diverse community.  In general, an inversely correlated trend between red coral colonies density and their size was found.

The authors highlight that anthropic stress plays a key role in the degradation of coralligenous habitats and the dramatic reduction of red coral populations recorded during recent years. They conclude that such assessments of the distribution and the state of fragile habitats and populations can provide useful information to take measures for a better MPA management.

Ferrigno et al. (2020) Red coral (Corallium rubrum) populations and coralligenous characterization within “Regno di Nettuno” MPA (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy). The European Zoological Journal 87: 203-2013.