Conflicting messages about state of Mar Menor

by Lorraine Williamson
Mar Menor

MURCIA – According to Murcia’s environment minister, the water quality for swimming in Mar Menor is excellent, although the temperature has risen due to recent weather conditions. However, there is a warning for uncontrolled algae growth. 

The water has low chlorophyll and bacteria levels in the best range, according to the 2021 report on which the ministry relies. Recent data shows a decrease in chlorophyll content, and improved transparency and salinity similar to the previous year. However, the minister reminded that 5,000 kilos of nitrates enter the lagoon every day. Therefore, he requested the intervention of the Hydrographic Confederation of Segura. 

The negative effect of surrounding intensive agriculture 

That sounds very positive after many alarming reports in recent years. These informed about the declining water quality in this largest inland sea in Europe. Due to the surrounding intensive agriculture, many waste products end up in the sewage water in the Mar Menor. Consequently there is, among other things, massive fish mortality and algae formation. The largest amount of nutrients enters mainly through the Albujón ravine, according to the minister of the environment. Most nutrients are therefore of agricultural origin. 

Uncontrolled algae growth 

Another report from the Mar Menor Scientific Advisory Committee warns that the intrusion of nutrient-rich water could cause uncontrolled growth of filamentous algae in the lagoon. Consequently, the report calls for action. The different administrations have to prevent a new algal bloom. Furthermore, it highlights the negative effects of removing underwater vegetation and biodiversity. 

Tourism 

All the reports about the poor water quality and dead fish washing up on the beaches in recent seasons are bad for the tourist image of the region. The Mar Menor Coast Hotel Association warns that tourism investment in the area has not recovered following the environmental crises of recent years. 

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Seven empty beach bars are silent proof of the lack of confidence in the area from tourists. The hotel association is demanding that the beaches be cleaned. Moreover, they ask the authorities to implement strategies to improve the image of the Mar Menor. The president of the association expressed these demands to the Commission for Tourism and Mar Menor. He called for coordination between central, regional and local governments. 

The chairman also said that the poor image of the Mar Menor is causing a low tourist flow in some areas. However, at the same time some other areas are in good condition. 

The Ministry of the Environment has reported that 2,718 tonnes of biomass have been removed from the Mar Menor so far. Furthermore, measures are being taken to improve beach cleaning for the summer season. 

Related post: Mar Menor becomes the first European ecosystem with legal status 

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