To the amazement of scientists, a grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) has been spotted off the coast of Barcelona, after being tracked from Palestine/Israel. North Atlantic-Mediterranean populations were understood to have become extinct in the 18th century, and there have no sightings since. The most likely expllanation is that the animal is a Pacific grey whale that has become lost. If it does form part of a new Atlantic population that would indeed be news. El País and BBC
BBC documentary of killer whales off the coast of Cadiz attracted by huge tuna captured by the almadraba fishing technique.
From The Natural World – Wild In Spain. Unfortunately it features Micheal Portillo.
The almadraba is an elaborate and age-old Andalusian technique of setting nets in a maze that leads to a central pool called “copo”. The maze uses just two net lines, called “raveras”. One net is connected to the shore and other line is secured in deeper water. Those lines have smaller oblique lines which leads to the central pool. Tunas are not able to see the exit from the central pool and remain inside. This simple maze works because tuna tend to go into the Mediterranean during spring and the beginning of summer. The floor of the central pool is raised in order to catch the tunas and when that floor is up, there is little room for tunas and they are then caught easily and slaughtered. Wikipedia
Killer whales (Orcinus orca) visit the Strait of Gibraltar during the tuna migration season in July and August. At the same time Spanish and Moroccan fishermen fish for yellowfin tuna, using longline fishing technics, they lower their fishing lines, armed with several hooks, vertically to the sea bottom. This fishing procedure is possible only in a limited area, where the depth of sea is only 100 metres. Killer whales, being intelligent animals, found out that it is much easier to take a tuna already caught on a fisherman’s hook, than to race with a fish in all its strength. Fishermen must often be satisfied with no more than the head of a tuna; orcas never eat the head of the fish as it contains a metal hook. This is the most dolphin safe of all methods of tuna fishery.
The killer whale population of the Strait of Gibraltar is only 12 animals (2006). There is a photo-identification catalogue of them. They are rather difficult to observe: they can only be found easily if tuna fishermen are on the sea, and the orcas hang around them. In any other instances, whale-watchers only can come across them by chance.
March 24th, 2010
Spanish researchers have studied the diet of three species of sharks which live in the deep waters of El Cachucho, the first Protected Marine Area in Spain, off the coast of Llanes, Asturias. The blackmouth catshark (Galeus melastomus), the velvet belly lantern shark (Etmopterus spinax), and the birdbeak dogshark (Deania calcea) feed on the resources available in their environment, according to changes taking place in the ocean depths. Their diet is opportunist, because they feed off whatever resources are available, in this case small euphausiid crustaceans, benthopelagic prawns and fish. More here
The Shark Alliance has denounced the overfishing of sharks for their fins by Spanish ships. 60,000 tons were docked in Spanish ports last year.
“A new TNS Demoscopia poll, commissioned by the Shark Alliance, has revealed that people in Spain are unwittingly eating shark meat. Although 96% of those polled said that they did not eat shark, 76.4% were not aware that “cazón” and “marrajo” are sharks and nearly 33% said that they consumed these products. The results were released in conjunction with a new report from SUBMON, titled Spain: A driving force in shark fishing around the world, that documents serious fishery problems including mislabelling sharks at market.”
For more than a decade, Spain has been one of the top five world powers with respect to the fishing and marketing of sharks. Spain’s fishing fleets, employing various gears, span the globe, taking sharks as targeted and incidental catch. Approximately 50% of the EU catch of “sharks” (all cartilaginous fishes: sharks, rays and chimaeras) is taken by Spain.
The Portuguese Man O’ War (Physalia physalis), one of the world’s most poisonous “jellyfish”, has been spotted off the Andalusian coastline near Almeria and along the Costa del Sol between Cadiz and Malaga. This is the first time they have reached Spain’s coasts for ten years. Scientists have warned the creatures could soon arrive in waters around the Balearic Islands and the Catalan coast. The species is not a true jellyfish but but rather a siphonophore – a colony of four kinds of minute, highly modified individuals, which are specialized polyps and medusoids.
Their sting is 10 times stronger than an ordinary jellyfish. Wikipedia notes:
The stinging venom-filled nematocysts in the tentacles of the Portuguese Man O’ War can paralyze small fish and other prey. Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those which wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live creature in the water, and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the creature or the detachment of the tentacle.Stings usually cause severe pain to humans, leaving whip-like, red welts on the skin which normally last about 2–3 days after the initial sting, the pain should subside after about 1 hour. However, the venom can travel to the lymph nodes and may cause, depending on the amount of venom, more intense pain. A sting may lead to an allergic reaction. There can also be serious effects, including fever, shock, and interference with heart and lung action. There have even been deaths, although this is rare. Medical attention may be necessary, especially where pain persists or is intense, or there is an extreme reaction, or the rash worsens, or a feeling of overall illness develops, or a red streak develops between swollen lymph nodes and the sting, or if either area becomes red, warm and tender.
Treatment for Man O’ War stings elsewhere on the body involve washing the affected area with salt water and then applying ice to dull the pain. More here
“Climate change is changing the migration patterns of many creatures. If they establish themselves it would be very worrying because they really are very dangerous,” Xavier Pastor, the European director of the Oceana ecological campaigning group, told the Independent.Even dead or washed up on shore the creatures still pose a threat because their tentacles retain their poison.”The Portuguese Man O’ War hasn’t been seen in the Mediterranean for a decade, and its appearance off the Spanish coast could herald a process of colonisation, which has happened with other invading species,” Mr Pastor said. Read in The Daily Telegraph
The Portuguese Man O’ War (named caravela-portuguesa in Portuguese) is named for its air bladder, which looks similar to the triangular sails of the Portuguese ship (man-of-war) Caravela latina (two- or three-masted lateen-rigged ship caravel), of the 15th and 16th centuries. As can be seen in the photo. Photo (wikipedia)
I liked this photo report of the fishing industry in Vigo by Ian Berry of Magnum Photos. The above image “ Gulls follow the trawler in the hope of picking up any fish left uncovered. 2008″ All photos here
According to a new report by Oceana, if Spain is to meet the deadline in three years imposed by the United Nations to protect at least 10% of the world’s marine areas, it needs to rapidly increase the paltry 0.5% currently protected. This means protecting almost 65 km2 a day.
The designation of new protected marine areas such as Seco de los Olivos (Andalusia), the seamounts of the Mallorca channel (Balearic Islands), the canyons of Palamos and Creus (Catalonia), the Seco de Palos (facing Murcia) and Cape Nao (region of Valencia), along with the expansion of other already protected areas such as Columbretes, Alborán and Doñana, are some of Oceana’s proposals in this report concerning approximately 50 areas in the Spanish Mediterranean and adjacent Atlantic waters….“Not only should new areas be afforded protection, but also many of the existing areas should be expanded. Nearly half of Spain’s marine protected areas barely reach a surface area of one square kilometre, making them inefficient for conserving certain habitats and species,” affirms Ricardo Aguilar, director of research and projects for Oceana in Europe and campaign director on board the Ranger.
The inhabitants of Spain’s Atlantic and Cantabrian coastline will have to get used to more storms and giant waves as a result of global warming. Two waves of 26.13m and 24.64m hit the coast near Santender on January 22nd, the largest every recorded anywhere along the Spanish coastline. Both form part of general tendency detected of ever greater waves.
It’s a worldwide phenomenon – whether bears investigating trash cans in the US, coyotes roaming New York, or boars exploring Barcelona – wildlife and human territories are increasingly overlapping. Near Vallvidrera railway station, on the outskirts of Barcelona, a mother boar availed herself of the contents of a litter bin in broad daylight. While two […]