End of the day. It’s 20:00 and we’ve just finished the first dive in waters of the Marine Reserve of Northern Menorca. This time, we were lucky, but the experience we have accumulated in the Cantabrian and the Mediterranean allows us to affirm that the absence of fish is alarming. We have verified the lack of fish in the sea during the dive with the ROV this morning off Cape Bajolí, on the west coast of the island, and in waters of the marine reserve. This time, all the members of the dive team agree that the fish are extremely sensitive and easily frightened. Although they spotted various species –groupers, combers, meagres, wrasses, seabreams,…- both the videographer and the photographer had a difficult time filming them, because they were so skittish. This is clear evidence of the ever-increasing overexploitation of this area, constituting a significant factor in the absence of certain species. As such, recreational activities should be taken into account when managing populations and habitats within the protected area.
In the case of the Balearic Islands, there are numerous marine reserves in waters of Mallorca. In Menorca, however, where we are now located, there are barely any marine protected areas, only 5,119 Ha included in the Marine Reserve of Northern Menorca. There are other protected areas on the island, such as the S´Albufera des Grau Natural Park, with its 1745.2 HA of marine protected area, but the management of its seabeds is far from being effective because, amongst other reasons, there is a lack of surveillance in this important section of the park. As such, the activities carried out in this area are abusive and uncontrolled, and there are no consequences, such as sanctions or formal complaints, to prevent them.
The creation of a Marine Reserve involves management actions by the central government and/or the autonomous government of a specific area in order to protect the habitats and species that live therein, as well as the management of the uses and activities developed within that area, such as the extraction of fishing resources, recreational diving, scientific research, the presence of boats, etc. For example, Oceana, in order to document the state of the seabeds and marine habitats of the reserve, must request authorization from the Balearic government to carry out scientific work in the reserve prior to arrival. Each activity developed within a protected area, either land or marine, must comply with the established regulations so as to not damage the environment and should have the corresponding authorisation from the competent government body, if applicable.