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A guide to loving and preserving the unique nature and culture of the Mediterranean.
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Underwater forests



“The disappearance of gorgonias can cause a chain reaction that will affect the entire Mediterranean ecosystem”

Janire Salazar, Marine biologist from ICM - CSIC

Gorgonias are organisms that make up entire underwater forests: areas in which many other species go to shelter, breed and grow. Mediterranean gorgonias currently suffer the daily impact of traditional fishing methods like gillnets. And like in any other forest, if the elements that make it up are not protected, the wildlife that it harbours will disappear. The ResCap project, which is carried out by ICM – CSIC, Fundación Biodiversidad and the fishermen’s associations of Port de la Selva and Cadaqués, aims to protect and recover all deep-sea gorgonias found in the Cap de Creus Natural Park.



Gorgonias are marine organisms which, despite the way they look, are not plants or algae, but animals. They are stationary, live in depths of more than a hundred meters, show very slow growth and take many years to recover. They are vulnerable, but great biodiversity depends on their growth. “Gorgonias are a structural species to the Mediterranean ecosystem, as they favour the growth and survival of multiple species,” says Marina Biel, one of the biologists from CSIC involved in the project.


Biologists, fishermen and agents from the Cap de Creus Natural Park work together to rescue all those gorgonias that have been accidentally trapped in fishing nets. Once recovered, the gorgonias are taken to the lab’s experimental aquariums to be studied and treated before they are freed again. When they are ready to go back to the marine environment, they are affixed to a base made of stone so that its weight will create the so-called “badminton effect” when they are released back into the sea. “The badminton effect ensures that the gorgonia will land on its feet on the seafloor and will therefore be able to feed itself and survive with no problems,” Marina Biel says.


The Pleamar projects bring to the forefront how important it is for biologists and fishermen to work together on the restoration of sea floors and the preservation of an essential species for the Mediterranean ecosystem: gorgonias. “Both parties work towards the same goal: to protect the sea floor and its biodiversity,“ ICM - CSIC biologists Janire Salazar and Marina Biel point out. Salvador Manera, a fisherman from the fishermen’s association of Port de la Selva and driving force of other sustainable projects linked to the Mediterranean, highlights how valuable these synergies will be into the future: “They help to raise awareness and to make us understand that we need to fish in a sustainable way if we want to carry on doing our job.”


Over the first year of the project (2018), more than 400 gorgonias were released back into the sea, with a survival rate above 90%. All parties involved hope to match or improve these results in 2019, as they also help to raise awareness about these kinds of initiatives. “There is an increasing number of people who are interested in marine conservation projects,” Janire and Marina say, as they insist on the meaning behind these actions: “The actions you take today will be rewarded tomorrow. It’s about giving something in return for the great things that the sea gives us each day.”

Discover the project
Cap de Creus


Discover other projects included in our guide, like the creation of a sustainable beach bar in Ibiza, the installation of a floating bin in Mallorca or the cleaning of the sea floor on Tamariu’s beach.

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