Cold-water coral habitats and canyons as Essential Fish Habitats in the southern Adriatic and northern Ionian Sea (central Mediterranean)

Francesca Capezzuto, Letizia Sion, Francesco Ancona, Roberto Carlucci, Angela Carluccio, Laura Cornacchia, Porzia Maiorano, Pasquale Ricci, Angelo Tursi, Gianfranco D’Onghia



The objective of this study is to provide additional evidence of the utilization of Cold-Water Corals (CWC) and Submarine Canyons (SC) by fishes as areas for growing to maturity and to reproduce and thus for the classification of CWC as Essential Fish habitats (EFH). Data were collected with longline experimental surveys carried out during spring-summer and autumn-winter from 2010 to 2014, in different CWC sites distributed along the Apulian margin: Gondola Slide (GS), Bari Canyon (BC), Monopoli (Mn) and Santa Maria di Leuca (SML). In the present study the reproductive phase of Galeus melastomus, Conger conger, Helicolenus dactylopterus, Merluccius merluccius, Pagellus bogaraveo and Phycis blennoides scollected in the abovementioned CWC communities has been analysed with respect to fish size. Maturing and mature individuals as well as post-reproductive specimens of G. melastomus, H. dactylopterus and M. merluccius were observed in all the investigated CWC sites. Mature gonads were also found in the other three species, although the investigated period was outside their reproductive peak, indicating that these CWC sites act as spawning areas and therefore as a potential ‘renewal network’ for fish species exploited in the neighbouring fishing grounds. This provides a strong argument for the categorization of CWC as EFH in the design of management programs.


cold-water coral; canyon; essential fish habitat; Mediterranean

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