Prosecutors in Spain have launched investigations into the mysterious death of fish along the shores of Mar Menor in southeast Spain. Mar Menor is one of the largest saltwater lagoons in Europe and home to a rich diversity of sea species. This week, residents noticed dead fish washing up along the shores and raised alarm by posting pictures and videos on social media.

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Residents reported spotting different types of dead sea life, including fish, shrimp and blue crabs. As Ada García Saura of SOS Mar Menor said, “[The blue crab] is a predator that is quite strong and resistant. So if we’re seeing these species that are much more resistant, it hints at the seriousness of what is happening.”

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The occurrence is not new to Mar Menor, as in 2019, thousands of crustaceans washed on the shore in the same lagoon. Ecologists are warning that the recent occurrence could be a repeat of what happened in 2019. Initial investigations in 2019 established that a lack of oxygen killed the crustaceans. Experts said that heavy agricultural runoff had sparked an algae boom, leading to oxygen depletion in the area.

In 2015, another similar occurrence happened, when all the lagoon’s water was colored and 85% of seagrass was killed. The phenomenon was termed extreme eutrophication and was a result of agricultural runoff.

Mar Menor is an agriculturally intensive region, with experts warning that the region is under pressure. The lagoon receives runoff from a 60,000-hectare agricultural area. To compound the problem, nearby towns lack proper sewerage systems. As a result, all this waste ends up in the lagoon untreated.

Locals have been vocal about the issue, calling out authorities for the death of the fish this week. “They haven’t done anything in five years, nothing,” one resident told reporters. Another added, “We’re seeing a significant environmental change in the Mar Menor and it’s getting worse. It’s dying.”

Currently, regional government officials deny that the fish deaths were caused by a lack of oxygen. Instead, they are pointing to early studies from a local university, highlighting the recent heat wave’s potential impact.

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Pixabay