by Staff Reporter

PALMA
FORTY boats which specialise in picking up rubbish in the sea will be brought into service on Friday, patrolling from between one to four miles from the coast and close to the beaches, as part of the 2007 Plan for keeping the sea clean.

Details of the plan were announced yesterday by environment minister Jaume Font and tourism chief Joan Flaquer.
One boat will be kept in reserve and a spotter plane used to detect rubbish. The plan will be in operation until the end of September, when the number of visitors starts to drop.

The campaign costs around four million euros a year, and since it started three years ago, 671 tons of rubbish have been collected (231 tons in 2004, 206 tons in 2005 and 233 tons in 2006). The rubbish ranges from wood to dead animals, builders rubble and similar.

Font said that when the Plan was first brought into operation, plastic was the rubbish most frequently found, some of which had been floating in the sea for 15 years. Now it is wood, often dragged down into the sea from the water courses after heavy rains. He went on to say “a lot of the material sank to the sea bed in winter when the water became cold, and reappeared again in summer, but this problem has been solved now.” Fifteen of the 40 boats are Pelicans and operate along the coast, controlled by the spotter plane which reports areas where rubbish has accumulated to the control centre. The other boats operate at beaches, 20 in Majorca, nine in Minorca, nine in Ibiza and two in Formentera.

The boats are manned by two people each who are helped by coastal town council staff who notify the presence of rubbish, co-ordinated by Ecomar and Fomento de Contratas, who manage the programme.

Although the boats will operate daily from 6.30am to 3pm, Font said that they would also answer emergencies in the afternoons, under the guidance of the sea rescue service.

Font pointed out that the summer campaign is now complemented by a winter campaign, to make sure that Balearic beaches, arguably the islands' chief attraction, are kept clean all year round.

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