On-board Diary: From Ibiza to Cabo de Palos

Author: Ricardo Aguilar
Date: July 15, 2007



We’ve spent the last few days closely following the "Don Pedro” spill in Ibiza. Although the largest oil spill took place on the first day, the merchant ship was still leaking smaller amounts on the following days. Work is still being carried out to seal the cracks in the wreck, but it is difficult to stop the leaking.

The oil slicks are reaching the coasts depending on the direction of the winds. At first, the slicks were moving more towards the northeast, then west and now towards the southeast, which means they are heading towards the Es Freus Reserve. The main concern now is the rest of the fuel and toxic substances that remain inside the sunken merchant ship. Finally, another ship has arrived to study the possibilities of extracting the fuel and diesel oil.

Not many species are being seriously affected by the spill, except for some cormorants with fuel-stained feathers and other coastal species (limpets, barnacles, crabs, algae). At least for now. In any case, the spill is not very dense and it’s mostly the smell that alerts you to the presence of the slicks that, when the seas are rough, are hard to see due to their oiliness.

After spending a few days here, and the arrival of more help to clear up the contamination, we decide to follow our schedule and head towards Cabo de Palos.

We are still unlucky with the weather and are forced to change our plans. Instead of staying on the high seas as planned, we head towards the south of Cartagena to sample the area surrounding the island of Las Palomas.

The sea floor at approximately 80 meters depth is muddy and various sole and other flat fish are present here, as well as red mullets (Mullus barbatus), gurnards, mud crabs (Goneplax rhomboides), etc., of course along with the trawling scars that are very deep and dense in some areas.

As depth decreases, the mud turns into sandy mud and then sand. Many sponges from the Cliona species are present, as well as red algae. Unfortunately, the invasive species are abundant, including Asparagopsis spp. and Lophocladia lallemandi, although the autochthonous species are also present, such as Phyllophora crispa, Peyssonnelia squamaria and dispersed rhodolites Phymatolithon calcareum and Lithothamnion valens.

At night, we tie up at the port of Cartagena to organize our work for the following days and wait for the weather to improve.