The annual campaign to protect bathers in the Mar Menor from jellyfish began last week, when the regional Department for Agriculture and Water started setting the 43 kilometres of nets which run along the shore of the lagoon.
When they are all installed the nets will enclose an area of one and a half million square metres, reducing the number of jellyfish which reach the beaches to the minimum possible and providing safe bathing for the hordes of summer visitors to the area.
The Mar Menor is renowned as a safe bathing area, so the positioning of these nets ensures that summer bathers have a stress free bathing experience and can enjoy the shallow, warm fringes of the Mar Menor to the full.
It’s now 16 years since the regional government first implemented its jellyfish control measures, which consist of three stages: first, the nets are put in place, then adult jellyfish are removed from the water by pairs of boats dragging a net between them, and finally samples of the jellyfish population are taken so that they can be studied. The research includes measuring the size, weight and maturity of the animals caught in order to understand how the populations of the two main species are developing.
Last year 700 tons of jellyfish were removed from the Mar Menor, 99 per cent of them belonging to the “Cotylorhiza Tuberculata” species, which is commonly known as the “fried egg” jellyfish due to its shape and colouring. The other one percent were white jellyfish (technically known as “Rhizostoma Pulmo”).
Although the “fried egg” jellyfish are not harmful to humans, they certainly put people off a refreshing dip in the sea, and this year it seems that they have arrived in the Mar Menor slightly earlier than usual. Sightings have already been reported close to the shore, and this comes after a couple of years when their numbers dropped considerably but in 2012 they have had a successful breeding season and are back in force. Scientists believe that the population could be as high as 80 million, close to the record catches of 100 million which were seen between 1995 and 2005.
The protective nets will remain in place until approximately 15th September throughout the Mar Menor, except in certain specific areas where, due to the number of tourists, the authorities will wait longer before removing them. As usual, the government department responsible for laying the nets has asked local authorities and residents to collaborate as far as possible in maintaining the nets: unfortunately, in the past some people have deliberately cut or stolen some of them, including an incident last year in which nets were destroyed to steal the lead weights from the bottom of them. It's a highly expensive exercise laying and maintaining these nets, but an investment seen as worth every cent if it ensures that visiting tourists have a good, and irritation free holiday.
For more info specifically about either the Mar Menor or one of the municipalities which forms it, there are several search options available. On the top header bar click Mar Menor, which will take you to a Mar Menor section. Or at the bottom of every page is a map box showing the areas of the Region of Murcia. Click Mar Menor for area info or select a town name for more detailed local information. There is also a universal word search facility to search by any word, ie beach. This will bring up any article with the word beach in it.
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