Spanish seas

Articles in ‘Spanish seas’

Turtles hatch in Fuerteventura

November 8th, 2008

The first loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) from eggs brought from Cabo Verde have hatched in Fuerteventura, in the Playa de Cofete in the Parque Natural de Jandía. More are expected to hatch from a total of 781 eggs. The project is planned to last ten years as it will take at least a decade to be able to begin to measure its success when hopefully some of those turtles hatched will return to the same beach as adults.

Biscay bay whales

October 20th, 2008

Dylan Walker of planetwhale has sent iberianature this great guide to whale watching in the Bay of Biscay Highly recommended! (Above photo is a fin whale)

Just how rich the Bay is for cetaceans can be assessed with a quick number crunching session of the ORCA database. This database includes over 50,000 km of survey effort from volunteers working aboard both ferries between February and November 1996 – 2008. During the period 1996-2004, for example, cetaceans were encountered on 3,429 occasions involving 15,725 individuals of 21 species. This equates to an average of one encounter every 44 minutes of ferry cruising – a very high return for any whale watcher! Read

Also well worth reading see is piece on the 2008 Plymouth – Santander Big Whale Watch

246 loggerhead turtles hatch in Cabo de Gata

September 30th, 2008

Newly hatched turtle being measured (CSIC)

246 eggs of loggerhead turtles (tortuga boba – Caretta caretta) have hatched in the last few days on a beach in Cabo de Gata, Almeria. The eggs were taken from Cabo Verde, where a third of the world’s population of Caretta caretta lives, and form part of a reintroduction programme of the Junta de Andalucía, CSIC and the Canarian goverment (Loggerhead turtles in Fuerteventura). They have been taken to a reintoriduction sent which will raise them for the first few months to reduce mortality rates. El Mundo

It will take at least 15 years to be able to begin to measure the success of the project when hopefully some of those turtles hatched will return to the same beach as adults. Small populations of loggerhead turtle in the Mediterranean exist in the Turkey and Greece.

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Loggerhead turtle eggs to be buried in Fuerteventura

September 3rd, 2008

800 Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta – tortuga boba) eggs are to be buried today in La Playa de Cofete de Fuerteventura in an attempt to reintroduce the species in the Canary Islands. The eggs have been brought from the Cape Verde. 200 more are to be sent to the Centro de Recuperación de Especies in Taliarte, in Gran Canaria, and 400 to the Estación Biológica in Doñana, Andalucia. Loggerhead turtles disappeared from the Canary Islands some 300 years ago. It wil take at least 15 years to be able to begin to measure the success of the project when hopefully some of those turtles hatched will return to the same beach as adults. Terra

More on loggerhead turtles (Wikipedia – above photo) which notes that the genus name “Caretta” is a latinization of the French “caret”, meaning turtle, tortoise, or sea turtle.  Small populations of loggerhead turtle in the Mediterranean exist in the Turkey and Greece.

See also: Loggerhead turtles hatch in Almeria (October 21st, 2007)

Portuguese man o’war threat in Cantabrian Sea

July 20th, 2008

Portuguese man o'war

Photo by Scott Sonnenberg (wikipedia)

In recent weeks the presence of Portuguese man o’war (Sp. carabela portuguesa- Physalia phisalis) has been detected at various points on the coasts of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Several people have been stung in beaches in Guipúzcoa (Ondarreta and Zarautz) and in Cantabria (Isla) although nobody has yet been seriously injured. Four years ago, the massive presence of the species forced the closure of several beaches in Asturias. Experts believe that the rise in the temperature of the Cantabrian Sea due to climate change has brought the Portuguese man o’war here with warmer waters. The cooler waters of Galicia have so far been free of the threat. El País. The purple Man-o-war is not a true jellyfish, but a colony of hydrozoan polyps. It can in extreme cases provoke a cardiac arrest and death in particularly sensitive persons.

Note the English and Spanish etymology comes from the creature’s 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. See Wikipedia

See also: Sharks, weaver fish, jellyfish and other dangerous animals in the seas around Spain

Monk seal population rises

July 2nd, 2008

Two weeks ago we heard the news of the appearance of a monk seal in the Isla del Toro, Mallorca. This possibly isolated event coincides with some good news of the seal’s populations slow but hopeful recovery. The Cabo Blanco colony (between Western Sahara and Mauritania) saw the birth last year of 46 pups, practically the same as in 2006, and doubling those of previous years. The colony is now made up of 180 individuals of which some 50 are breeding females, demonstrating that it is finally beginning to recover from the mass epidemic caused by a toxic seaweed of the late 1990s which killed off 75% of the colony.

Elsewhere, in 2007 in Greece 28 pups were born, and in the Desertas Islands (Madeira), there are just three breeding females. The Algerian and Moroccan coasts support no more than 15 individuals. Source: La Crónica Verde

Distribution of monk seals. From The Monachus Guardian.

Figures of a world population of 500 Mediterranean monk seals are being quoted in the press though I can find no “official” figure. The Monachus Guardian states

“Thousands of islands, inaccessible coastlines, and a species that shies away from human contact have all conspired to make distribution and abundance assessments for the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) an extraordinarily inexact science. Conventional wisdom, however, suggests that fewer than 600 individuals survive, making the Mediterranean monk seal Europe’s most endangered marine mammal

Monk seal spotted off coast of Mallorca

June 17th, 2008

Remarkable news. A diver from Palma claims to have seen (and taken photo above) a possible monk seal (foca monje – Monachus monachus) in the marine reserve of Isla del Toro. The monk seal is considered to be extinct is the Balearic Islands (where it was known popularly as the vell marí – old man of the sea) since the late 1950s, and is among the ten most endangered mammals in the world, with colonies divided between Mauritania and the Eastern Mediterranean, the former being far the stronger. If true, I imagine we are talking about an animal in dispersion or just plain lost. The Balearic government periodically considers the possibility of attempting to reintroduce the animal. Whether it would fare well in an area of sea so popular with pleasure craft is another question. See more in El País

Update: this version of the story from Libertad Balear is much better researched.

There is also a half plan to reintroduce the animal along the Costa Brava (La foca monje volverá a Cadaqués – El País)

A small group of monk seals survived in Cabo de Gata, Almeria until the 1960s.

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Jellyfish plague warning

February 29th, 2008

Scientists have warned of a new plague of jellyfish to hit Spain this summer. The Guardian here reports that scientists were “alarmed to detect large numbers of the Pelagia noctiluca, commonly known as the “mauve stinger”, growing in the winter”.

..A study has revealed that jellyfish proliferate throughout the year, not just in the summer. Between November and January, scientists discovered 30 colonies, or blooms, ranging in size from four to 10 jellyfish per cubic metre of water, all along the Catalan coast. “The problem seen on the beaches is not the main concern for scientists….Jelly expert Professor Gili, noted “For us the major worry is the global disequilibrium in the sea caused by over-fishing.” In 2006, the Red Cross treated 21,000 people who had been stung on the beaches of Catalonia, while on a single day in August, 400 bathers were treated at a beach in Málaga. One cause of the problem is the decrease in leatherback turtles, a principal predator, which have been driven to the point of extinction because the beaches where they lay eggs have been used for tourism.

Climate change to affect shellfish in Galicia

February 11th, 2008

According to the Centro de Investigacións Mariñas of Galicia barnacle captures are likely to be favoured by alterations due to climate change, though clam and cockle farming will be hit.

Clams and cockles will be negatively affected by torrential rains as their principal beds lie at the mouth of rivers. Heavy rains will bring a large influx of fresh water harmful to shellfish. High water temperatures will lead to proliferation of pathogenic agents which attack clams and cockles.

On the plus side, the production of barnacles has increased in recent years coinciding with a fall in algal blooms, though the article does not explain why. More soon when I understand this.

El cambio climático favorecerá la captura del percebe en Galicia (El Pais)

More on barnacles from Iberianature

Catalan sea cats

January 3rd, 2008

I’m re-reading Robert Hughes’ Barcelona, a fascinating history of the city from its foundation to the early 20th century.  There’s a very interesting section on the Barcelonan and Catalan seafaring tradition in which he mentions the importance of ship’s cats – the bigger and blacker the better  – and the custom of Shanghaiing them by tempting them on board with a bit of fish. Under 14th-century Catalan maritime law (Les Bones Costumes de la Mar), ship’s owners were penalised of they failed to provide a cat and rats infested the ship. Here’s the full quote from the law I managed to find:

If good be damaged by rats, and there is no cat on board the ship, the managing owner of the ship ought to make compensation; but it has not been declared in the case where a ship has had cats on board in the place where she was laden, and after she has sailed away the said cats have died and the rats have damaged the goods before the ship has arrived at a place where they could procure cats; if the managing owner of the ship shall buy cats and put them on board as soon as they arrive at a place, where they can find them for sale or as a gift or can get them on board in any manner, he is not bound to make good the said losses, for they have no happened through his default. 
from “Les Bones Costumes de la Mar” (14th-15th c. Catalan text)  from Twiss, Sir Travers, ed. Monumenta Juridica, The Black Book of the Admiralty

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