Restoration of marine habitats, a great ally to recover out seas, was the star of the event organized by Fundación Biodiversidad to present he LIFE ECOREST project, which aims to restore almost 30,000 hectares of deep sea habitats in Catalonia and to embark the active help of the fishing industry and community.
This event was attended by the General Director for Biodiversity, Forests and Desertification of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO), Ms. María Jesús Rodríguez de Sancho, who highlighted to the role of this initiatives as “an efficient tool to revert ecosystem degradation, mitigate climate change and promote adaptation to it, and protect biodiversity in the benefit of people, the climate, and the planet”.
In her speech, Ms. Rodríguez de Sancho also insisted on Spain’s firm intent to progress in sea ecosystem conservation and recuperation and described some of the main Government interventions in this regard, such as the National Strategy for Green Infrastructure, Connectivity and Restoration Ecology and an expected investment of over 26 million euros for restoration of sea habitats, with the support of the funds of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan.
With regard to the LIFE ECOREST project, Ms. Rodríguez de Sancho highlighted that one of her top priorities is cooperation with affected sectors, described as “tantamount to advancing in the protection of our seas and our resources”. This project benefits with the close collaboration between different public entities and the scientific and fishing communities.
This event was also attended by the General Director for Sustainable Fishing of the Ministry for Agriculture, Fishing and Food, Ms. Isabel Aritme, who highlighted the role of the fishing sector in the marine preservation projects, and the “efforts made by the fishing community in order to ensure that their activities are carried out in a sustainable manner”.
Besides, the Deputy General Director for Fishing and Aquafarming of the Regional Government of Catalonia, Ms. Itziar Segarra, emphasized the relevance of a participatory approach in the management of the fisheries in order to promote conservation of marine biodiversity in Catalonia.
BENEFITS OF MARINE RESTORATION
On their part, the partners of this project used this event to promote the benefits of restoration of marine habitats and showcase the relevance of marine reserves to be able to regenerate key species and habitats such as corals or Gorgonia, which act as the landscapers of sea bottoms.
Specifically, Mr. Josep-Maria Gili, a lecturer at the Institut de Ciències del Mar (Institute of Sea Sciences) of the CSIC (ICM-CSIC), the organization that coordinates this entire project, explained that active restoration is “a great opportunity to accelerate habitat recovery in such a way that the lost functions of ecosystems are also recovered”. In this sense, he highlighted the innovative nature of this project, due to both “the methodology used and the large surface over which it is developed”, and to the close collaboration between sectors. Projects like this “put Spanish science in the spotlight”, he concluded.
Ms. Cristina Linares, a Professor of Ecology of the Faculty of Biology and the Institute for Biodiversity Research (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona, focused her speech in corals and Gorgonia, two of the key species for this project due to the fundamental role they play for the entire ecosystem. “These two species are the trees of ocean beds; and, just like trees on a forest, they provide shelter to a large variety of species. For this very reason, the degradation of corals and Gorgonia entails a loss of many relevant ecosystems functions and services”, she warned.
On her part, Ms. Laura Recasens, a researcher in the Marine Resources Department of the ICM-CSIC, addressed the importance of reserves in the regeneration of fishing resources and ecosystem recovery. “Protected marine areas are a management tool that allows to recover biodiversity and contribute to the conservation and recovery of habitats which have been damaged by the impact of fishing activities”, she explained.
In this event, the fishing sector was represented by Mr. Antoni Abad, president of the Association of Fishers’ Cooperatives of Girona. Mr. Abad expressed that the sector is making an effort to cooperate in marine restoration and highlighted the “important collaboration with all other partners in the project to successfully complete the scheduled actions”.
Finally, Mr. José Luis García, the head of the marine programme of WWF Spain, commented on the need to involve the entire society in order to successfully promote the restoration of sea habitats from a participatory approach. “Knowing their insights and interests and leveraging the knowledge they can contribute is fundamental to ensure that the restoration proposal is accepted, creates engagement and is, in sum, feasible in the long term”, he concluded.
SCOPE OF INTERVENTION
In the scope of intervention of this project, which is located along the coast of Barcelona and Girona, it is estimated that over 90% f the sea bottom between depths 50 m – 800 m show signs of degradations, which jeopardizes the regeneration of natural resources. This zone is considered an area of high ecological relevance due to the large populations of endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species living in it, including corals and Gorgonia.
For this reason, the LIFE ECOREST shall be in force until 2026 with the goal of trying to improve the conservation status of deep sea habitats and support the efficiency of a participatory approach including the fishing sectors stakeholders.
This initiative is coordinated by the ICM-CSIC, and its partners are, among others, the Association of Fishers’ Cooperatives of Girona, the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, the University of Barcelona and WWF España, and has benefited from a financial contribution of the European Union LIFE Programme.