• Cold drop.The Prosecutor's Office will investigate the discovery of thousands of dead fish and crustaceans in the Mar Menor
  • Science: Mar Menor: from Mediterranean paradise to animal cemetery
  • Analysis: The death of a tiny sea

Fishermen say that the Mar Menor is like a child we have fed too much. At first, the boy was healthy until he gradually gained weight, swallowing a green soup of nitrates and phosphates derived from an uncontrolled intensive agriculture. Later, the child began with heart and diabetes problems, and still bingeing on polluting spills. One September day, a woman fallen from the sky called DANA, blew so hard that she left the child without oxygen and made him vomit and spread his intestines in front of those who had ceased him incessantly.

It was as if the plagues of Egypt fell at once . The Exodus of the Mar Menor had already warned. But few really were aware of the punishment that came upon them. There was no invasion of frogs. Nor did water turn into blood. But thousands of fish and crustaceans - more than two million, say some fishermen - appeared suffocated on the shore. There were mullets and sea bass. Also prawns and pickles. Even some seahorse. In total, 43 species emerged from the depths of the largest saltwater lagoon in Spain. Most arrived on the shore of San Pedro del Pinatar, in Murcia, already dead. Others agonized to perish. Something similar had never happened.

Photos courtesy of Isabel Rubio Pérez / marmenormarmayor.es

That dawn of October 12 will not be forgotten by the 150 fishermen of the Brotherhood of the Mar Menor . His eldest patron, Jesús Gómez , still misses a tear when he remembers the picture of dead fish flooding the shore of Villananitos beach. Three tons of marine fauna were collected in total. The golden giants and the coveted eels with their mouths open in a desperate attempt to breathe. Also the hundreds of blue crabs, an invasive species, piled on top of each other.

Today the boats are moored at the docks. And there are no fish for sale at the Lo Pagán fish market. Nobody wants to buy anything that comes out of the Mar Menor . «We have sunk the market. Our clients do not dare to buy us fish in case they are contaminated, ”explains Jesús Gómez. The restaurants in the area have also removed the species from these waters from their counters. «Our situation is dramatic. We are left without support ».

Gómez is the fifth generation of fishermen in his family. He has been on a ship since he was 14 years old. «Before the star species was the magre, the eel and the chirrete. Now it is the dorado and shrimp, for its abundance. After this era of storms, the good streak of fish sales would come because the catches are much larger. These months we make 40% of the whole year . In the brotherhood we invoice an average of three million euros per year. And if they don't buy us, we're going to sink, ”says the fisherman.

He and his companions look with concern at the situation of one of the natural jewels of the Spanish coast. And they ask politicians to assume responsibilities. «From the Ministry of Fisheries they asked us for help to clean the beaches of dead fish and we refused because we have been denouncing the deterioration of the area for years and warning that this would happen. Although from the Government of Murcia they insist on blaming the recent cold drop, ”says Gomez. "The cause has not been any specific spill but the effects of the cold September drop," replies Antonio Luengo , Minister of Water, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Environment. "The recent DANA (isolated depression at high levels) caused 60 cubic hectometers of fresh water (with sediments, residues and organic remains) to reach the Mar Menor leaving their lower layers without oxygen," he continues.

An explanation that does not convince environmentalists or many scientists. «What the counselor says is an excuse to blame a natural phenomenon and not recognize the guilt of the agricultural sector and administrations. The lack of oxygen is due to the toxic substances that are generated from the decomposition of organic matter in water. A process that takes years and with the entry of nutrients from these latter rains has worsened even more. And the depleted ecosystem of the sea has been unable to cope with this impact. In addition, we have had floods for centuries worse than the latter and not all fish have died, ”says Pedro Lueng o, coordinator of Ecologists in Action in Murcia.

«This situation is reminiscent of the Prestige crisis. What DANA has done is accelerate the process, it is not the main cause. The Mar Menor now has an excess of nitrates and pollutants that comes from illegal wells and irrigation, ”continues biologist Óscar Esparza , spokesman for WWF Marine Protected Areas. For Jordi Camp, a researcher at the CSIC, what has happened could not be avoided due to the "salinity conditions of the lagoon, which barely allow the discharge of excess water to the open sea." Meteorologists of the Southeast Meteorological Association also say that it is not necessary to blame the effects of the cold drop.

On Thursday thousands of people took to the streets of Murcia asking to revive their sea. Our Dead Sea

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

Know more

  • Mar Menor

Defense Ten years of defense cuts

SCIENCE Anthropocene: the great acceleration

ScienceThe Prosecutor's Office will investigate the discovery of thousands of fish and crustaceans killed in the Mar Menor by the cold drop