Oceana denounces before UNESCO the dumping of polluted waste from Maó

The project includes many errors and deficiencies breaching the declaration of Minorca as a Biosphere Reserve.

Press Release Date: March 4, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

The dumping of the waste into the sea will affect fishing activity, human health, the quality of bathing water, and the conservation of marine ecosystems.

Oceana sent today to the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, the body in charge of Biosphere Reserves, a complaint against the project of dumping into the sea the waste materials from the dredging of Maó harbour. The material displays high levels of mercury as well as lead and copper, and so Oceana believes that the project should be halted until a plan for decontamination is set in place.

“The Port Authority must carry out a transparent dredging project that provides all the necessary guarantees”, says Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europa. “We cannot allow the dumping into the sea of 200,000m3 of polluted muds, and the breaching of the objectives of the Biosphere Reserve, breaking the balance between economic activity and conservation of the environment”.

To summarise, Oceana is bringing the five following points to UNESCO:

–          The material to be dredged displays very high levels of heavy metals, particularly mercury, which endanger human health. Aireport by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography recommends not dumping this waste into the sea.

–          The analysis to evaluate the heavy-metal content was restricted to only 50% of the surface to be dredged. The other, unanalysed half corresponds to the areas most polluted with mercury and lead according to a previous project carried out in 2009.

–          In the area where the polluted muds are to be dumped, Oceana has documented ecosystems and species of high environmental and fishing value, which would be seriously impacted.

–          The dumping area is an area of small-scale fishing with bottom-set longlines, and razonfish and lobster fisheries are located nearby – both very important species for fishing in Minorca.

–          The schedules dumping area is located at a distance between 1.8 and 2.4 miles from significant bathing areas, such as  Cala Sant Esteva, Cala Rafalet, s’Algar and  Cala Alcaufar, and the quality of their waters might be affected.

One of the goals of the Minorca Biosphere Reserve is “environmental management of the coast and beaches, which are the basis for tourism, by means of the protection of dune and marine ecosystems”. Therefore, and in order to faithfully comply with this goal, Oceana requests that the dredging project be halted and that the deficiencies detected thus be solved in order to perform a dredging that provides all the necessary quality guarantees.

Oceana specifies that it does not oppose the dredging of Maó harbour, but it requests that the muds not be dumped into the sea, butrather that they be safely managed inland.

Further information: Mercury pollution

Oceana has photographs and video images of the affected seabeds