Stunning Reef Found off the Coast of Northern Sicily
From Australia to the Caribbean, most people looking to explore a coral reef will head off on a pricey long-haul flight to the other side of the world. Recently I wrote about why we are so lucky to have Europe so close by and now an expedition has revealed another reason why Europe is so spectacular…
The Aeolian Islands on the coast of Northern Sicily are already well known for their volcanic landscape and are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, a month-long expedition has revealed another layer of beauty beneath the waves. Nearly 3,300 feet deep is a stunning bamboo colony including forests critically endangered bamboo coral. Despite being only just off the coast, this area of ocean had yet to be explored in any detail. The expedition covered seven different areas of ecological interest, offering a range of ecosystems including isolated seamounts, underwater banks, and hydrothermal vents formed by volcanic activity. They found protected species such as loggerhead turtles, rare carnivorous sponges, and species never before seen in the region. The variety of habitats play vital roles in the life-cycle of species not limited to the area, e.g. black corals were found to contain shark eggs.
The data collected by the expedition is to be analysed but the aim is to support a proposition to protect both the marine life in the area and the livelihoods of local people who depend on it. This protection is all the more vital since the expedition filmed extensive damage to the area from man-made objects such as lost fishing gear, millenia-old coral tangled in lines, and a dead loggerhead turtle with a fishing line hooked in its mouth.
The Oceana expedition is part of the Aeolian Islands project, being carried out by the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) in collaboration with the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund. The project aims to secure the designation of a marine protected area.