By Humphrey Carter

THE spillage of 150 tons of fuel oil by the ferry Don Pedro which sank in the mouth of Ibiza harbour this summer was yesterday described as one of the worst ecological disasters of the year in Spain by the World Wildlife Fund/Adena, the WWF's Spanish branch.

Juan Carlos del Olmo, WWF/Adena's secretary general said that the shipping accident in July, caused when the ferry hit rocks as she set sail from Ibiza, not only caused considerable environmental damage to Ibiza, it has also highlighted the high risks of serious maritime accidents Spain runs and that urgent measures need to be taken to prevent similar accidents happening again.

Del Olmo added that the sinking of the Don Pedro was a double blow to the Balearics which has already had sizeable chunks of the coastline destroyed by over-development.

However, he said that the new Biodiversity Law is going to have a very positive impact on the protection and preservation of large areas of the Balearics' marine environment with many of the existing reserves being enlarged.

Fuel oil from the Don Pedro led to the closure of a number of Ibizan beaches in the south east of the island but, the authorities just about managed to protect the Ses Salines reserve, sanctuary for migratory birds, from the spillage.

Groups of volunteers headed to the contaminated beaches to help the clean up operation and over 100 tons of polluted sand was scraped off the beaches during the five days of the emergency operation.

The disaster also highlighted the fact that the Balearic government neither had an adequate marine accident response operation in place nor sufficient resources to respond to such a disaster.

The absorbent barriers used to protect the nature reserve and contain the fuel oil slick had to come from the mainland and that led to vital clean up time being wasted as hundreds of holiday makers were either forced off their local beach or left to sunbathe as the clean up operation continued around them.

The alleged slow and inadequate response to the spillage caused a major political battle with the opposition Partido Popular in the Balearics extremely critical of the government's failings.

In a number of areas where beaches where contaminated, restaurants and bars were also empty during the first week of the spillage and the Ibiza bar and restaurant association considered applying for government compensation as pictures of the spill and the Green peace protest off the popular holiday beaches found their way on to televisions screens and into the newspapers across Europe - the Balearics' main tourism market.


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