Minister Vidal (left) with Joan Mercant during the visit to Malgrats.

The regional environment ministry is to spend 577,400 euros on carrying out a census of protected fish in the seven marine reserves in the Balearics. There hasn't been such a monitoring since 2011, and the new one is designed to assist in improving management of these species.

Minister Vicenç Vidal, whose portfolio includes fisheries, believes that the reserves have been operating well, even though there was a 50% reduction in personnel who monitor them. The new initiative, he says, will be one to show the validity of efforts made.

Vidal was speaking during a visit to the Malgrats reserve in Calvia, and he mentioned the project for an expanded reserve at Dragonera. If there is an increase in protected areas, he noted, there will have to also be an increase in human resources. These, it is hoped, will be financed by European fisheries' funds.

The minister added that the government wants to re-establish the number of monitoring personnel. There are six people rather than the eleven there used to be. These are insufficient. He also noted an agreement entered into last week with the Council of Formentera as well as a collaboration with the national government in respect of the Llevant reserve (east Majorca) and a further one to come with the Council of Ibiza.

There are currently some 61,000 hectares of marine reserves off the coasts of the Balearics. The aim of them is to allow fish reproduction and conservation and increases in numbers. The census and monitoring will, among other things, compare areas of reserve where fishing is totally prohibited with ones that allow recreational and/or all types of fishing. This will enable the ministry to know the density of fish stocks, the different species and their condition.

"The greater the protection, the greater the diversity and size of species," Vidal noted, adding that the reserves are both useful and necessary.

The various species include sea bass, sea bream, conger eel and scorpion fish ("cap roig"). The presence of the latter, Vidal said, indicates quality and that there will be other types of fish.

The census and monitoring are to begin this year with the reserves of Es Freus in Formentera and El Toro, Malgrats, Dragonera and Llevant in Majorca. These will be repeated in 2018 and 2020, while in 2017 and 2019 efforts will be centred on Palma, north Minorca and Migjorn in Majorca.

As an additional benefit, the fisheries' director-general, Joan Mercant, said that the reserves have allowed an increase in diving. This has been the case in El Toro and Malgrats in particular, and thus constitutes something of important tourist value.