Oceana finds protected species and habitats in the area chosen to dump the polluted dredging waste from Mahón harbour

Two protected sponge species were found, as well as other species of commercial interest, such as octopus, cuttlefish, red scorpionfish, and painter comber

Press Release Date: February 19, 2013

Location: Madrid


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Oceana has published the results of the expedition which it launched in early January in the area where the Port Authority intends to dump the waste from the dredging of Mahón harbour in Spanish Balearic Islands. Over three days, using a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), high-resolution images were taken of the seabed in the area where the dumping 200,000m3 of muds polluted by heavy metals, particularly mercury, is scheduled. A total of almost 260 species have been identified.

The seabeds found were mostly well-calibrated fine sand alternating with maërl and coralligenous fields, ecosystems which, due to their importance for fishing and their sensitivity to impacts, are protected by European anti-trawling regulations.

“Seabeds with a strong environmental alternation, such as those in the dumping area, give rise to a high degree of biodiversity”, says Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research of Oceana in Europe. “The dumping of the dredging waste will kill most of these ecosystems, as the seabed flora and fauna will die under this mud and the home of commercially and environmentally significant species will disappear”.

Of particular importance is the existence of sandy seabeds with violet heart-urchin (Spatangus purpureus) communities, in a density that can surpass 10 individuals / m2. The violet heart-urchin is one of the main preys of the European lobster (Palinurus elephas), the species with the highest economic value for the Minorca small-scale fishing fleet.

“Whereas the reports made by the company CBBA, in charge of the environmental monitoring of the dredging project, stated that the area has no biological interest, Oceana has proven the existence of a great diversity of species and ecosystems”, says Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Once again, this is evidence of the low degree of transparency with which the Port Authority is carrying out this project, as they are hiding information and endangering fishing in Maó and people’s health”.

Oceana is not opposed to the dredging of Maó harbour, but it demands that these polluted muds be handled inland and not dumped into the sea due to the risk to human health which they will pose once they move into the marine food chain, as they will affect commercial species that will end up in our stomachs.

The Port Authority failed to perform heavy-metal analyses in the areas which proved to be the most polluted in another analysis carried out in 2008. It also concealed an unfavourable report by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography. Given all these mistakes, the dredging project should be halted and modified until it provides full guarantees.

Study of the communities in the area chosen for the dumping of the dredging waste from Maó harbour (Spanish)

Oceana has photographs and video images of the seabeds in this area

Further information: Mercury pollution