The municipalities of the Costa del Sol face the tourist season one more year with the problems that it entails the presence of invasive algae -Asian species Rugulopterix Okamurae, which is registered in the ‘Spanish Catalog of Invasive Exotic Species’ of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge-, which implies removal and treatment costs and damage to the image of tourist destinations, for which they request aid.
The first to sound the alarm this week was the Estepona City Council, a town where 20 tons of algae are collected daily from this vegetableso the Consistory has had to allocate an additional economic item to deal with the removal and treatment work, which this year has meant a extra cost of one million eurosas highlighted by the mayor, José María García Urbano.
In this way, the local administration removal and treatment work throughout the year with a service that works daily, from Monday to Sunday from 11:30 p.m. to 10:00 a.m., counting since last January the collection of “more than 2,000 tons of algae”. For it, There is an operation made up of “more than 14 vehicles” that work in the 23 kilometers of Estepona coastline.
The councilor has highlighted that the municipalities are not going to be able to assume with their own resources “the eradication of this problem”, for which it requests the Government of the Nation to launch a “state plan that addresses the problem posed by invasive algae on the coasts of Spain and to help the municipalities in the removal and treatment of this waste”.
The Marbella City Council has joined this request, which has been asking the central government for “aid” since last year, according to the general director of the Environment and Beaches, Victoria Martín Lomeña. The municipal manager has detailed that like many municipalities on the Costa del Sol, the Marbella coastline suffers from the presence of this speciesarriving “arribazones of this algae to the beaches of the center”, mainly to those of El Faro, La Fontanilla, La Venus, San Ramón and La Bajadilla, as well as in San Pedro Alcántara.
Lomeña has detailed that the Consistory has withdrawn so far this year “50,000 tons” of this algae, which has indicated that it has begun to appear on the coasts since Easter, for which it has calculated that “30,000 tons were removed in June, almost 15,000 in July and about 5,000 in May.” Regarding the cost, he has estimated that “every year is close to 400,000 euros for landfill fees”.
As explained, the City Council has deployed a device for the removal of the plant based on a “early warning system” which operates from 00:00 to 10:00, and is made up of municipal machinery such as “beach cleaning trucks and tractors” that collect the waste off the coast for its “drying” and subsequent transfer to the “landfill”.
The director has assessed that “the main problem is that the sea is a living element”, while underlining that the presence of this species “damages the image” of the tourist destination, since “The beach is not in perfect condition.”
the asian species Rugulopterix okamurae It has also landed on the coast of Mijas, where a ‘shock plan’ has been implemented to prevent the proliferation of this invasive plant. The Councilor for Beaches, José Carlos Martín, has specified that during the month June “2,200 tons have been withdrawn, which has meant a cost of 115,000 euros”.
According to the mayor, “the withdrawal of this invasive species, transport and canon that we pay to the recycling plant means that we have that approximate monthly investment”, for which they work at night six tractors every day removing algae which are subsequently transferred for use in the composting process and its use as a biofertilizer. To prevent its proliferation, the City Council joined the ‘Invasive Algae Forum’ last year with the aim of protecting the natural and indigenous marine heritage.
The coast of Benalmádena also suffers from the presence of this algae, in which every day algae are removed from the shore with “backhoes” by “the contract responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of beaches”, as indicated by the City Council, highlighting that “between July 6 and 7, which were the days with the most avalanches”, “more than 82 tons”.
From the local Administration they have highlighted that the presence of the invasive algae on the coast of Benalmadena “It is having a considerable effect because every day we have to withdraw a large amount” of the vegetable. Likewise, they have valued the negative affectation that this marine residue supposes for “the image of a tourist municipality like ours, since in the middle of the summer season many tourists do not want to swim because of this high presence of algae”, they have stressed.
For this reason, from the Consistory they value that the invasive algae on the coasts “It is a problem common to all the municipalities of the Western Costa del Sol”, for which they have ensured that “during the last meetings held in the Association of Municipalities, it was found the need to establish some extraordinary measure or resource that would contribute to palliating” the problem.
The presence of the vegetable also affects the coast of Casaresregistering this municipality from April until now the output of “more than 80 trucks, at an average of 14,000 kilos” for each one and where in “a bad week about 22” vehicles of algae can leave, which represent “more than 300,000 kilos”.
The Councilor for Playas Casareña, Noelia Rodríguez, has indicated that “Economically it’s outrageous” which implies for the municipal coffers the removal and treatment of the marine plant, although it has not detailed specific data since “it would be necessary to count workers overtimethe diesel from the backhoe machine for its removal on the beach and the rental of trucks for transfer”.
Rodríguez has highlighted that the collection of the algae “is an enormous job, added to the one that is carried out daily for the cleaning of the beaches”, while he has remarked that the presence of the invasive species “It has a great impact on tourism. so since Casares Town Hallthe Government is demanded an aid plan for the removal and treatment of this algae”.
In the Manilva coast there is presence of invasive algaebut “not in worrying amounts for now” and for the moment “it has not become a serious problem”, they have indicated from the local Administration, from where they have assessed that “everything that is to improve, eradicate a problem or prevent it It’s always good”, in relation to the request for help made by other municipalities.
About him treatment and removal of seagrasshave pointed out that municipal workers are in charge of undertaking these tasks with machinery from the Consistory, pointing out that “the effort is almost useless because it reappears”, despite the fact that “They are not large quantities, nor are we talking about tons.” on the Manilvean coast.
On the contrary, municipalities such as Fuengirola or Torremolinos are not affected for the vegetable. The explanation is given by the director of the Costa del Sol Coastal Sciences Chair at the University of Malaga (UMA), Francisco Ignacio Franco, who has detailed that the Rugulopterix okamurae it is “an algae that grows on rock, not on sand”, so it cannot colonize areas “with sandy sands”.
In this way, in municipalities such as Fuengirola, Torremolinos or Malaga do not contemplate this problem, as “the bottoms are more sandy”. This is because the “expansion strategy -of the algae- is that it loosens from the rock and the currents they take it to other areas where there are rocks” that “can colonize them”, since “it cannot colonize the sand”.
In the case of Estepona, the expert has indicated that “there are rocky bottoms where the algae have practically reproduced on the shore” – based on the “survival strategy”, which is the “invasion” -, with a mechanism through which “it is very easily released from the rock and the currents are dragging it to have a density slightly higher than waterso it is dragged along the seabed as if it were a carpet of algae residue.
The expert explained that when the algae reaches the sand “a process of decomposition begins being “a very porous area where there is a lot of humidity and it is a shelter for insects”, so it “affects the quality of the coastal environment”. Likewise, he has reported that when the plant decomposes “it can affect the marine environment, which is minimal or null when the decomposition of the algae occurs in the water on a beach.” Meanwhile, when the process takes place in a port or in a cove “the decomposition produces the consumption of oxygen from the water and releases acids that make the pH of the water acidic, causing massive fish kills.
The vegetable has reached the coast of Almería
The asian seaweed Rugulopterix okamurae, registered in the ‘Spanish Catalog of Invasive Alien Species’ of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, has reached the coasts of Granada and part of those of Almeríaaccording to the director of the Costa del Sol Coastal Sciences Chair at the University of Malaga (UMA), Francisco Ignacio Franco.
As he pointed out, “surely the algae reached the Strait of Gibraltar in the ballast water that comes from Asia, from China”, where he found a weakened ecosystemtook advantage of the opportunity and began to grow on the rocks near Ceuta” in 2015.
Franco has pointed out that when the algae “come off it is the currents that move them to other places and colonize the rocks of other areas, as happened later in Cádiz in 2017, and then the waste passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and reached the coast of Estepona” in 2018. Later, it has indicated that it reached “Marbella, Mijas, Casares and Manilva in this order and now it has also reached Granada and part of the Almería coast”, has specified.