SPA/BD Protocol is one of the instruments for the Marine Protected Areas and Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI). SAP-BIO adopted in 2003 by the Barcelona Convention mentioned that setting up of protected areas in offshore waters (including high seas) to protect the pelagic ecosystem, sensitive species, seamounts and submarine canyons should be a priority. Here we propose two seamounts in the eastern Mediterranean Sea for SPAMI.
Firstly the Finike (Anaximander) Seamount is an important area for active mud volcanism and gas hydrate formation. It is described as large faulted and tilted blocks that were geologically continuous from SW Turkey. Mud volcanoes, seeps and vents specific seep-associated fauna (e.g. tubeworms, bivalves and chemosynthetic bacteria) have been known in this area. It is also near one of the major spawning grounds for pelagic fish, located near between the Antalya Eddy and the Rhodes Gyre, which is one of the most distinctive features of the Levantine basin. Also, many deep sea fish species of which the status are not yet evaluated by IUCN have been sampled from this area, together with highly commercial deep-sea shrimps. Abralia veranyi, a deep sea cephalopod and a prey species of the striped and Risso’s dolphins were sampled from the area. This seamount is under the threat of international fishing practices in recent years.
Secondly, the Mediterranean Seamount (Eratosthenes) is important in terms of diverse marine biodiversity, represented by scleractinian corals, deepwater crustaceans, sponges and others. Besides, GFCM also has issued recommendations for the Eratosthenes Seamount. Fisheries have been already banned according to the GFCM recommendation number 2006/3 and the fisheries restricted areas have been established in order to protect the deep sea sensitive ecosystems. Nevertheless, IUU fisheries, ship-originated pollution and offshore exploration in recent years are the main threats for such a pristine habitat. Oil and gas exploration activities need to be banned in this unique area.
The Finike and Mediterranean Seamounts are considered as isolated underwater islands in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and need full protection due to their role as stepping stones from the high sea to the coastal areas. Appropriate SPAMI listing can be an important instrument for the protection of these offshore areas in the international waters.