Oceana requested in December that the Port Authority, in charge of the dredging, provide this report, and thanks to this it has come to light.
IEO believes that the material to be dredged in Maó harbour has very high pollution levels, and can have a negative impact on fishing and the marine environment.
Oceana has published a report by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), the public organisation for marine research, stating that the material to be dredged in Maó harbour has very high heavy-metal levels, mainly mercury but also lead and copper.
On the basis of the law on access to environmental information, Oceana requested that the Port Authority provide this report, and was given the answer that there was no such report. Surprisingly, the document appeared three days later, even though Oceana has evidence that the report existed since March 2012.
The report reminds readers that heavy metals are not degraded and that they are bio-accumulators, and so “they concentrate more in the upper levels of the food chain, and can be 10 times higher there than in the middle”.
Other defects in the dredging project listed in the IEO report are an insufficient description of the area where the dredging materials are to be dumped, the absence of a study of impact on shellfishing, as well as on professional and recreational artisanal fishing, and the absence of a study of the local sea currents to evaluate the impact of the dump on neighbouring areas. Sensitive ecosystems, vulnerable species, and species of fishing interest could be affected by the dump.
“The Port Authority is managing this dredging project with very little transparency”, say Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “We don’t understand why this scientific report was concealed by the Sub-Directorate General for Marine Resources and that the Port Authority is going on with this project without taking it into account. Mercury pollution poses a serious threat to human health”.
In 2011, Oceana published another IEO study which had been concealed by the General Secretariat for the Sea, which disclosed the high content of mercury in certain commercial fish species, which forced the Health Ministry to recommend that pregnant women, women who might be pregnant, and children under 3 abstain from eating these species.
Recently, 140 countries have signed a global agreement to be known as the Minamata Convention, to ban the use of mercury due to the danger to health posed by this substance. The name of the convention honours a Japanese town where hundreds of people were intoxicated with mercury in the 1950s. Mercury is a toxic substance which affects neuron development.
Further information: Mercury pollution