Thousands of people made this Saturday (28) a human current around the Mar Menor, a saltwater lagoon in southeastern Spain, as a sign of mourning for the millions of fish that died there due to pollution. Agricultural waste has led to a phenomenon that has reduced water oxygenation to the point of asphyxiating the fish, according to protest organizers and regional government officials.
Organizers estimate that 70,000 people participated in the act and held hands, lining up for hundreds of meters. Residents and tourists attending the Alcazares beach, which extends for six kilometers along the edges of the 73-kilometre-long lagoon, took part. The images of tons of dead or dying fish, trying to breathe, have shocked Spanish public opinion for nearly two weeks.
“It is a manifestation of mourning for the death of animals. We wanted people to ask, in one way or another, for forgiveness for the barbarity we caused,” activist Jesus Cutillo told AFP. “For days, we’ve been watching millions and millions of fish die, and seeing these pointless deaths hurts us.”
Many protesters were dressed in black and carried signs saying “SOS Mar Menor”. The aim of the act was “to show our determination that this never happens again,” explained Cutillo.
In a photo dated August 21, 2021, officials from the Municipality of Murcia, Spain, remove dead fish from the Mar Menor lagoon — Photo: Eva Manez/Reuters
Scientists indicate that the main cause of the lack of oxygen is the arrival in the lagoon of hundreds of tons of nitrates used as fertilizer by intensive agriculture, which favor the appearance of algae that suffocate the aquatic ecosystem. The phenomenon is called eutrophication.
On Monday (23), the seventh day of the ecological disaster, authorities in the region informed that 4.5 to 6 tons of fish had already been removed. This Saturday, the quantity was updated to 15 tons.
“The 15 tons of dead fish or biomass show that it is a real environmental catastrophe and an emergency. We need immediate help for the ecosystem,” said the mayor of nearby Cartagena, Noelia Arroyo.
The Minister of the Environment, socialist Teresa Ribera, was at the site on Wednesday (25). She accused the regional government, of the Conservatives of the Popular Party, of tolerating illegal agricultural practices in the fields of Cartagena, a huge area of intensive cultivation. Farmer organizations, in turn, ensure that they respect current environmental legislation.
Aug. 25, 2021 photo shows a man hanging a pollution banner in the Mar Menor lagoon in Spain where tons of fish that died from agricultural pollutants were removed — Photo: Jose Miguel Fernandez/AFP