TWO sunken and leaking oil tankers, one off northern Spain and one off the south has heightened concerns about the shipping of toxic materials in Spanish waters, in particular up and down the country's Mediterranean coast and in Balearic waters. The World Wildlife Fund has already warned Spain about the high risk of a shipping accident in the channel between the Balearics and mainland Spain. Every year 635'000 tonnes of crude oil are spilled by vessels in the Mediterranean. This is 17 times the amount that the Exxon Valdez spewed out in Alaska. A quarter of the sea pollution is from activities such as dredging, drilling for oil and minerals, and shipping. The other three-quarters originates from landbased sources, such as industrial and urban waste. Raw untreated sewage and fertilizers, both with nitrogen and phosphorus, have created a massive explosion of toxic algae which has become an annual problems for the Balearics. esterday the Balearics signed up to a new clean ports initiative launched by the Government of Catalonia with European Union backing and funding. he initiative is also being adopted in Cantabria, northern Spain, Portugal's Algarve and the Languedoc-Roussillon in France. The aim of the project is to reduce the environmental impact of nautical activities and fishing on local ports. Of the five participating European regions, 150 ports, small and large, have been targeted by the campaign which is to receive 1.6 million euros of EU funding. Each of the ports will undergo exhaustive studies to establish what problems each one faces and which activities pose the greatest environmental threat. Reports will be submitted to the European Union before being dealt with. Director General of the Catalan government's environmental planning departments, Jordi Sala, explained that the aim is to also find the legal loop holes which permit parts of the nautical and shipping industries, either intentionally or not, to damage the environment. Information gleamed from the studies, the most in depth ever carried out on European ports, will be used for future port design and construction. The International Maritime Organisation has called for much tougher controls and for European authorities to fully enforce and comply with international shipping laws, especially in areas such as the Western Mediterranean which the World Wildlife Fund has declared a high risk black spot, not only because of commercial shipping but also the high density of nautical activity in general.


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