Mar 20, 2024
The Canyon of Caprera becomes a Hope Spot thanks to One Ocean Foundation
A win for marine conservation: the Canyon of Caprera joins the global network of over 140 Hope Spots, critical areas crucial to the health of the ocean

One Ocean Foundation is pleased to announce the recognition of the Canyon of Caprera as a new Hope Spot by Mission Blue, a global initiative for the conservation of marine biodiversity established by the renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle. Thanks to the Foundation's constant commitment to research and monitoring activities since 2019, the Canyon of Caprera joins the network of over 140 Hope Spots worldwide, making it the second in Italy.

"Congratulations to One Ocean Foundation and its partners for their great research efforts that have contributed to increasing current knowledge about the presence of marine biodiversity in the Canyon of Caprera. Thanks to their constant monitoring activities, One Ocean Foundation has implemented the current level of protection, contributing to the conservation of key species in the Mediterranean Sea," says Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder and President of Mission Blue.

The official announcement takes place yesterday during a special event held as part of Monaco Ocean Week at the Yacht Club de Monaco, which has joined forces with the One Ocean Foundation, marking a significant step forward in our journey towards ocean sustainability. “The Yacht Club de Monaco is honored to welcome the One Ocean Foundation - Canyon of Caprera Project, aimed at protecting the rich marine biodiversity of the largest underwater canyon system in northeastern Sardinia. Together, we are dedicated to implementing innovative solutions that address the challenges facing our oceans, leveraging research, education, and community engagement to make a tangible impactsays YCM General Secretary Bernard d’Alessandri.

The Canyon of Caprera and its role in the marine ecosystem

Thanks to research and monitoring activities, we now know that the canyon hosts 7 of the 8 species of cetaceans usually present in the western Mediterranean, some of which are considered particularly rare and at risk of extinction. Among these species are the Cuvier's beaked whale, the Risso's dolphin, the fin whale, and the sperm whale, but also other marine mammals such as the monk seal, one of the most threatened pinnipeds on the planet.

"The Caprera Canyon has an extremely important ecological value as most of the species we are studying seem to use the area as a feeding and breeding site. Despite its value, the Canyon - like much of the Mediterranean Sea - is subject to numerous anthropogenic threats" says Jan Pachner, Secretary General of One Ocean Foundation. "Marine mammals, in particular, are subject to accidental captures, collisions with vessels due to intense maritime traffic, as well as acoustic, chemical, and pollution such as plastic."

Research activities of One Ocean Foundation: ecosystem mapping

"We consider essential to prioritize the protection of cetaceans and their habitat, especially in the Mediterranean Sea. Through an innovative interdisciplinary and non-invasive approach - which includes visual surveys, acoustic monitoring, and environmental DNA analysis - and thanks to international collaborations, in the past years we have been strenuously committed to ensuring the protection of this precious ecosystem," continues Ginevra Boldrocchi, Scientific coordinator of One Ocean Foundation and researcher at the University of Insubria.

The scientific projects carried out by One Ocean Foundation include a series of innovative and pioneering activities made possible also thanks to the support of important research centers such as the University of Milan-Bicocca, that analyses environmental DNA samples to monitor the presence of species in the area. Thanks to this technique, it was possible to detect the presence of the Monk Seal, with a study published in the prestigious journal Scientific Report in 2023. In addition to this, three acoustic buoys have been positioned in strategic points of the Canyon to track the spatiotemporal distribution of cetaceans thanks to the CMRE center of La Spezia and photo-identification activities to determine the distribution and behaviors of mammals.

The scientific data collected and analyzed brought the Caprera Canyon to the attention of Mission Blue: after a careful and rigorous evaluation of the project by a committee of experts, this area has been selected to become a Hope Spot, a place considered crucial to the health of the ocean.

Research and monitoring activities were possible thanks to the collaboration with CMRE-NATO La Spezia, the University of Insubria, the National Park of the La Maddalena Archipelago, SEAME Sardinia, CNR-IAS Oristano, the Western Maritime Command of the Italian Navy, and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas - CSIC. One Ocean Foundation is particularly grateful to Rolex for its support of the project, as part of the Perpetual Planet Initiative.

One Ocean Foundation's commitment to the new HopeSpot

In addition to continuing research activities, in the coming months, One Ocean Foundation will work alongside local authorities and institutions on the priority task of educating the new generations to promote awareness and recognize the importance of this ecosystem, through the development of educational materials and awareness-raising activities aimed at the general public, local schools, and tourists.

"We thank Dr. Sylvia Earle and Mission Blue for this recognition, which represents an important milestone for our efforts over these years. This will allow us to continue - with even greater commitment and in collaboration with national and international entities and institutes - in the protection of the largest system of submarine canyons in northeastern Sardinia in line with the latest indications from the European community, which highlight the protection and restoration of biodiversity as the most relevant topic to invest in and which we will also pursue through educational and engagement activities in the territory," says Riccardo Bonadeo, President of One Ocean Foundation.  

The designation of the Caprera Canyon area as a Hope Spot represents a significant step towards accelerating the recognition of the area as an Important Marine Mammal Area, with the ultimate goal of promoting it as a Marine Protected Area, ensuring the necessary protection of this precious biodiversity Hope Spot.

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