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While sun loungers and parasols used to line the shores of the coastal lagoon, residents now give the area a wide berth. As five tonnes of dead fish wash up on the smelly shoreline, what has happened to Mar Menor?
Some scientists think that the saltwater lagoon was polluted by climate change reducing oxygen levels in the water.
However, the primary cause is likely to be nitrate waste from fertilizers used by the surrounding farms.
Large scale farming causing fertilizer runoff into the water has choked the fish and seahorses that lived in Mar Menor.
Tourism is also to blame according to some experts. There are many hotels and apartment blocks on the La Manga strip by Mar Menor.
Excessive tourism can contribute to pollution and could have impacted the oxygen levels of Mar Menor.
Local residents have been horrified by the sheer number of dead fish washing up on the shores of the lagoon.
Julia Martinez, a biologist who was raised near Mar Menor, told New York Times: “I remember finding it stunning as a child that I could see the sand at the bottom without even noticing the water because the Mar Menor was so transparent.
“Now we sadly have a green soup and I certainly have long stopped swimming in it.”
Agriculture managers have said they are not responsible for the pollution and activists have found it hard to tackle the problem.
Vicente Carrión, president of an agriculture union, said: “We are getting blamed for what went on 40 years ago.
“Less scrutiny was placed on agricultural practices and the authorities’ emphasis was on taking advantage of the demand from across Europe.”
He said that farmers are now only using fertilizers that are essential for them to grow and manage their business. The agriculture industry is a big employer in the region.
The pollution has put tourists off from visiting and even second home owners are avoiding the area.
Ángel Calín told El País that he owned a holiday home in the area and has been visiting since he was a child.
He said he now prefers to drive to nearby Mediterranean beaches as Mar Menor is so polluted.
Calín said: “The water was cloudy then (2016) but this year, the bottom is also muddy from the run-off.
“As soon as you step away from the shore and venture further in, it feels disgusting.”
Hotel owners in Mar Menor have reported a drop in numbers visiting which they believe is due to the pollution.
Huge demonstrations have been held in the area as local people demand pollutions deal with the problem.
Natàlia Corcoll said on Twitter: “So sad to see how the Mar Menor is dying because of pollution in 2021!”
Nick Lloyd tweeted: “The depressing fate of El Mar Menor, one of the largest saltwater lagoons in Europe, once teeming with wildlife, now polluted to hell from agricultural runoff, virtually ecologically dead and strangled by tourist development.”
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