A WET start to the weekend is forecast after the last two or three days of warmer-than-usual daytime temperatures across Spain, according to the State meteorological agency, AEMET. Whilst last week broke records for...
Battle to protect Spain's 10,000 endangered marine species
SPAIN is home to the largest number of marine fauna species in the European Union – a total of 10,000 in 900 types of habitat – but is also the bloc's fifth-largest producer of plastic with an average of 3.2 items of rubbish, of which 2.3 are plastic, lounging in every square metre of beach.
Plastic items take decades or even centuries to break down and disintegrate – drinks bottles, for example, do not biodegrade for over 500 years.
Latest records show plastic pollution on Spain's coasts is so serious that it makes up 75% of all rubbish cleared off beaches, but this is not the only danger to the country's vast marine biodiversity.
Illegal fishing, overfishing, excess noise and, of course, global warming affect ecosystems, but only 1% of the world's seas are under conservation orders.
This spring, the previous Spanish government, led by the PP, set up the Life IP Intermares plan as part of the Biodiversity Foundation within the ministry for the environment, agriculture, food and fishing – the largest and most ambitious marine conservation project in Europe, financed out of various EU funds totalling €50 million to care for the entire network of protected parts of the continent's seas.
It will involve breeding programmes covering all marine species in the Red Natura 2000 ('Nature Network 2000'), Spain's catalogue of endangered fauna, with the aim of increasing protected offshore reserves tenfold – reflecting the rest of the planet as a whole, 1% of Spanish seas are usnder conservation orders, but the Life IP Intermares programme seeks to increase this to at least 8% immediately, rising to a minimum of 10% by the year 2020.
Research and monitoring, general protection actions – such as reducing or banning boats or limiting tourist numbers – awareness and education campaigns, and public communications are among the other activities the sea conservation project will develop and expand over the next few years.
Spain's most common endangered species
Both flora and fauna highly characteristic of Spain's seas are under threat – from the rorqual or blue-fin whale, the second-largest marine animal on earth at a fully-grown 27 metres (87'9”), hunted for meat in Japan and Iceland until two years ago and frequently seen off mainland Spain's easternmost tip in late summer as it heads south from the Ligurian Sea via the Mediterranean, through to the Posidonia plant, also known as Mediterranean Tapeweed or Neptune Grass, which provides shelter, oxygen and food to fish.
Endangered native marine birds include the Balearic Shearwater, or Puffinus Maruetanicus, whose presence alone is a sign of the sea's environmental health and of which only 3,000 still exist, and the European Shag or Phalacrocorax Aristotelis, easily spotted by its shiny black feathers, long neck and wide wing-span as it skims the surface of the water in flight to catch fish.
The Small European Locust Lobster (Scyllarus Arctus) and the Pen Shell or Fan Mussel (Pinna Nobilis) are two types of crustacean whose situation is critical – once abundant in the Mediterranean, the former has seen a drastic population drop due to illegal fishing and the latter is now no longer seen there at all due to a parasite which has wiped them out, with the only healthy population of them in Europe being found in the river Ebro delta.
Porpoises, the smallest cetacean species in the north Atlantic, only now found off the shores of Galicia and frequently a victim of accidental fishing; the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops Trncatus), 95% of whose deaths are directly caused by humans; and the Angel Shark (Squatina Squatina), often caught by mistake as it is similar in appearance to the skate or the monkfish, are among Spain's most typical endangered breeds of fauna.
And the loggerhead turtle (Caretta Caretta), which can live to around 62 years of age, and green turtle (Chelonia Mydas) are endangered all over the world – illegal trading for their shells or meat, or, in Spain, being caught up accidentally in fishing nets are their greatest hazards.
Many coastal towns in Spain have set up 'turtle banks' where fishermen can drop off turtles caught in their nets, calling the 112 emergency hotline, so they can be collected by marine sanctuaries, nursed back to health and re-released into the sea.
Releasing recovered turtles often becomes a public event that attracts crowds with cameras and even competitions to name them.
The turtles will normally be tagged for future monitoring before being returned to their natural habitat.
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