Oceana’s crew has found an extensive white coral reef in the deep waters of the Alboran sea. The reef in the Western Mediterranean was discovered on the Ocean Ranger 2011 expedition, led by Ricardo Aguilar, the director of research of Oceana Europe. The international marine conservation organisation said the 1.5m high reef lies at a depth of between 320m and 400m, and maintains living colonies growing on older structures of dead coral. Formed primarily by white coral, the reef’s surface area is estimated to exceed 10 hectares.
Many reefs in European waters and the Mediterranean have been destroyed by bottom trawling, changes in water temperature or natural catastrophic events. Coral reefs are essential for many marine ecosystems, with deep-sea coral areas being among the most vulnerable. Mr Aguilar said that the area around the newly discovered reef is flourishing with other important habitats including gorgonian gardens, rare glass sponge fields and black coral forests. The seamount was inspected by an underwater robot that can reach 600ft deep. The robot has also provided images of other valuable habitats.