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'Extinct' porpoise seen seven times off Costa del Sol
A TYPE of dolphin believed to be extinct in the Mediterranean has been seen seven times off the Costa del Sol in recent months, according to the marine protection charity OceanSea.
The Common or Harbour Porpoise, one of the smallest mammals found in the sea and a species that stays close to the coast, has long been thought to have been wiped out in southern Europe, but the sightings have shown that it is alive and well and that habitats continue to survive in the Alborán Sea, between Almería and eastern Morocco.
The Phocoena Phocoena is one of six species considered 'endangered' and which are subject to special conservation orders, says OceanSea's Juan Manuel Salazar.
And in the past three years, 651 sightings of these six have been reported – most of them, 542 in total, of bottlenose dolphins, and another 79 of the Common or Atlantic Dolphin.
Rarer still are rorqual or blue-fin whale sightings – just 12 in three years – although a much higher number has been spotted off the Cabo de la Nao cape on the cusp of Dénia and Jávea (northern Alicante province), mainland Spain's easternmost tip, which is said to be on the so-called 'Whale Way', or migration path.
Loggerhead turtles have been seen seven times in the Alborán Sea and off the Costa del Sol since late 2015, although about double that number is thought to have been located off the east coast of the mainland, where a procedure is set up for fishermen who catch them in their nets, or members of the public who find them trapped or injured, can deposit them in a 'turtle bank' and call the emergency services.
Another type of rare mammal, known as the blue-white dolphin, striped dolphin or Euphrosyne dolphin, has been seen four times in three years off the coasts of southern Spain.
Salazar says the seas south of the mainland are a 'major' breeding ground for endangered sea creatures, especially mammals, and that the porpoise spottings are great news for many reasons.
Firstly, because it has proven they are not extinct; secondly, because it shows how valuable the southern Mediterranean and Alborán Sea are as marine conservation areas, and thirdly, because these sightings are an excellent tourism perk.
Already, plans are under way for whale-spotting tours, which are generally a unique feature of the seas to the far north and far south of the planet – in Iceland, South Africa, Chile and Argentina, for example, holidaymakers have the option of joining an excursion.
And now it may be possible in Andalucía: research has been carried out thanks to a deal between the ferry company Costasol Cruceros and OceanSea to find out how viable this tourism option would be and how it can be conducted in the most sustainable, environmentally-friendly way possible.
It could also become an option on the northern Costa Blanca, the coast of the province of Alicante, with the amount of rorqual whales seen by casual viewers and local residents, although it has not been fully explored as yet.
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Marcus Wernicke
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