The Nacra or Pinna nobilis, which is better known as the noble pen shell or fan mussel has been almost wiped out of the Western Mediterranean by a parasitic protozoan called Haplosporidium pinnae sp. nov., which killed off 99% of the population in Spain 2016 and is still spreading.
But there is hope. Underwater Fishing Practicioners, Sebastián Fàbregues and his son, Pedro, have found a specimen alive on the north coast of Minorca.
"It was a great joy because all the things we see are dead," says Sebastián, who couldn’t believe his eyes and went back to the seabed twice to make sure that it was still alive.
“Only seven or eight live specimens of Pinna nobbilis have been recorded throughout the Balearics, and only in Cabrera and Minorca,” explained Jorge Moreno, Head of the Servei de Protecció d'Espècies of the Ministry of Environment.
"The Balearics is the only community that actively searches for live natives in order to have resistant specimens that could be used for repopulation,” he explains.
Sebastián and Pedro Fàbregues are members of the Minorcan Association for the Defence of Underwater Fisheries, or Amesub, which has campaigned alongside other groups from the Balearic Islands to inform Medi Ambient of any detection of a living nation.
That appeal also extends to the general public who are advised not to touch a pen shell if they find them, but to photograph it and make a note of where it is, then Medi Ambient technicians will travel to the site and decide how best to protect it.