“The economic future of our islands and the well-being of their citizens depend on the good state of conservation of our sea. The Balearic Islands can become a benchmark in the conservation of the marine environment at a national and Mediterranean level. The Balearic Sea Report, the result of the collaboration of the best experts in marine science in the Balearic Islands, is a tool that will help us to achieve this. The conservation of the sea and marine research are fundamental to the economic recovery of our islands”.
These are the words with which Francina Armengol, the President of the Balearic Government welcomed the new Balearic Sea Report 2021 launched this past Wednesday, and we could not agree more.
The Balearic Sea Report is an initiative that began in 2018, and which has helped bring together more than 30 institutions to share the best and most up to date information on the state of the Balearic Sea. The new version includes 150 indicators and has been elaborated with the support of nearly 100 researchers and technical staff from the main research institutions of the islands and government departments, who have selflessly donated their time to the initiative. In addition to the in-kind and contributions of all the institutions, the Balearic Sea Report has received financial support from the Marilles Foundation and Fundatur.
The report mainly contains ecological information, such as the status of fish stocks, Posidonia meadows or endangered species. But it also integrates important economic and social data, such as the level of investment in marine protected areas, employment generated in sectors related to the blue economy and the human pressure on the islands.
In just one year, half of the 100 indicators included in the 2020 version have been updated and we have been able to add 50 new indicators, such as the status of the protected loggerhead turtle, the distribution of deep-sea corals (including the critically endangered bamboo coral), data on 3 endangered mollusc species and the quality of the waters discharged into the sea by sewage treatment plants.
The impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic have obviously been captured with marked changes in some indicators and trends. For example:
- The number of tourists has dropped more than 80 % (from 16.5 million in 2019 to 3 million in 2020).
- Human pressure has decreased by 21% (1,609,033 people) compared to the peak value in 2019 (2,036,263 people).
- The transport of cruise ships has decreased by 95 %.
However, it is still too early to determine whether the reduction in some pressures has had a significant impact on any species or habitats.
An important development in 2021 has been the design of a new website: www.informemarbalear.org which allows anyone to dive into the report by browsing through the indicators which are organised in 10 different thematic chapters: protected habitats, key species, beaches, water quality, global change, pressures, social response, marine protected areas, fisheries and benefits.
Although the website is currently only available in Catalan and Spanish (English version coming soon) we encourage you to have a look at graphs and tables – most speak for themselves – and the beautiful pictures which give a glimpse of the wonderful species that inhabit our surrounding waters.
Through this initiative, and the collaboration of scientific institutions and the regional government, it has been possible to make available to the public a collective heritage that has been little visible until now, as well as useful reference information for researchers, public and private managers and the general public.
Its value lies not only in the data it collects, but also in highlighting gaps in information that we do not yet have. This is a long-term initiative and we hope we will be able to fill many of the information gaps as the initiative grows over time. Having good quality data is essential for getting our seas to an excellent state of conservation.