• Historias.Mar Menor: from Mediterranean paradise to animal cemetery
  • Chronicle: Mar Menor: Our 'Dead Sea' and the fishermen from whom no one buys their fish

The Mar Menor lives its hardest moments . Its waters are contaminated. Millions of fish have died. The accumulation of errors in its management is counted for decades. Mass tourism, intensive agriculture, a nitrate-filled underground aquifer and the most devastating DANA (cold drop) in its history have put it in check. Its poor condition affects even the team of scientists who discuss how to solve it. Eight have abandoned since their formation in 2016.

The Scientific Committee of the Mar Menor is formed by experts from different disciplines: oceanography, biology, ecology, hydrology, environmental sciences, pollution and soils. Everyone dominates a topic. The problem is that the Mar Menor is a whole and a complex ecosystem that is not governed by a single scientific specialty. Opinions diverge in what each one has to do when dealing with the same problem. Therefore, it is required that they work with an orderly analysis protocol and that agreed conclusions be reached. This is not the case and is the origin of the disputes that have broken the group and produced four of them in June 2018. Four others have just done so, as reported by the newspaper 'La Verdad de Cartagena'.

The problem of the Mar Menor comes from its delicate balance of waters. The salt dough occupies 135 square kilometers of surface between four and six meters deep. Below and around it, it mixes with brackish water contaminated in nitrates that come from the discharge of five aquifers. The largest of them, the Campo de Cartagena, occupies an area of ​​1,240 square kilometers and has a depth of 50 meters.

Manure, nitrates and evictors

This aquifer is complete and the level of water it contains reaches only one meter from the surface. On the banks, at some points, it even comes out as a spring and ends up in the lagoon. Above are the cultivated fields (fertilized with manure) that are irrigated with water from the aquifer (which has nitrates) and from the Tajo-Segura transfer. Due to the strong demand, hundreds of wells and evictors complete the panorama of the cycle of pollutants ending in the Mar Menor. Each committee expert must defend their position, according to their knowledge in their field, when dealing with this diversity of strongly related issues. Hence his headaches.

One of the points of disagreement is the way in which their meetings occur. There are scientific, technical and administrative staff members from the Region of Murcia. For this reason, when assessing and taking action, opinions and tasks seem diffuse. "There are times when decisions are made on behalf of the scientific committee. And we make diagnoses, we make assessments, but we are not responsible for the decisions. That is the politician's responsibility. This is a hoax. It is not a scientific committee ," he said. to EL MUNDO Juan Manuel Ruiz, scientist of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) and one of the last members to leave the Mar Menor Scientific Committee

This media has witnessed disagreements between different members of the committee by providing data on fish mortality that occurred on October 12 and 13 due to lack of oxygen in the water. While Juan Manuel Ruiz affirmed to this newspaper that "all living beings from three meters deep had died, which could represent 70% of the total surface of the bottom of the lagoon," the professor of ecology of the University of Murcia, Ángel Pérez Ruzafa, denied the figure.

One of the biggest discrepancies and the one that produced the departure of Julia Martínez (director of the New Water Culture Foundation), Rosa Gómez, Miguel Ángel Esteve and Francisca Giménez (scientists from the Department of Ecology and Hydrology of the University of Murcia) lies in the interpretation of the Mar Menor state, which according to these experts had not recovered from the eutrophication that turned the waters of the Murcia lagoon green in 2016.

The DANA, together with the unfortunate state

This point of conflict is important, since those who have left the committee now (Juan Manuel Ruiz -IEO-, Jose Álvarez Rogel -Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena-, Víctor Manuel León León -IEO-, Gonzalo González Barberá -Centro de Edafología y Applied Biology of Segura-) have highlighted that not only has DANA been the cause of the death of fish and crustaceans, but it is the unfortunate state of the Mar Menor that is responsible for anoxia and asphyxiation of fish with DANA. According to 'El Diario', both the statements that are excused in the cold drop, and the denial of the previous poor condition of the Mar Menor are the reproaches made by the former members of the committee, who denounce "lack of independence" and "manipulation" by part of some representatives of the team of experts .

"They are not political reasons. They are scientific reasons for not agreeing with diagnoses that have been made," said Jose Luis García Aróstegui, hydrologist at the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (IGME). The researcher has also highlighted the lack of a unique voice. "The spokesman has not provided the voice of the committee, because a consensus statement has never been made to explain the position of the committee. That has never been done."

García Aróstegui has explained to this newspaper his desire to reorganize the committee, with a clear protocol design , a re-foundation of its members and a unique consensual voice. And if you did this, would those who have left return? "They will have to return. They are the ones who know," said García Aróstegui, an opinion that does not rule out any of the experts who have left the group consulted.

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