A step back in the protection of the Menorcan sea

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More than a quarter of the special diving area of the Marine Reserve off the Illa de l’Aire has been left unprotected, despite a positive response claiming that a protection regime was applied. GOB has asked to be able to see reports justifying the lack of protection.

A few weeks ago, we were surprised by the modification of the Decree 26/2019, that regulates the Marine Reserve of the Illa de l’Aire. Among other things that have been changed, is that the already meagre Special Diving Area is reduced in size by 25%. Only fishing with a rod from the land was allowed and none by divers, but now both professional and recreational fishing will be permitted.

This modification of the decree only aggravates the critical problem that we have because of the lack of protection of the coastline ecosystems. For some time, GOB has made official complaints about the lack of effective vigilance around the protected marine areas of Menorca. If, added to this, is the reduction in size of these areas, especially those with maximum protection, then we squander marine ecosystems. This is a resource on which the fishing sector depends as well as many commercial sectors of the island such as tourism.

Statements made by the Marine Resources Service in the press indicate that this modification responds, in part, to requests made by the Island Governing Council. For this reason, GOB has sent letters to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the Balearic Government and the Ministry of Economics and Land of the Island Governing Council to ask to see the file and reports that have fostered the lack of protection of these areas.

This decision does not seem to have been made based on any scientific criteria. The latest studies pointed to an increase of biomass and the size of certain species in areas where the recent modification of the decree has left them unprotected. The Reserve, created in 2019, was beginning to show an interesting function which in all probability it will now lose.

It is worthwhile remembering that the European Union is setting 2030 as a target for having a minimum of 10% of the surface of the sea with the highest level of protection (known as the No Take zone). Menorca is very far from this percentage. If the coastal waters defined in the Framework of Water Directive were taken as a reference, we would have only 2.92% for the above mentioned protection level. If the marine surface of the Menorca marine Reserve of the Biosphere is taken as a reference, then that does not even reach 0.31%.

So Menorca not only suspends protection of its coastal waters, but takes steps

backwards from those studies that show how effective strict protection has been in other areas. Someone will have to explain the reasons.