BOATS that destroy seaweed when anchoring off the Balearics risk fines of up to €450,000.
The area is rich in posidonia oceanica, commonly known as Neptune Grass, and crucial to the Mediterranean’s ecosystem. Growing in dense underwater meadows, posidonia converts carbon dioxide into the oxygen that is vital for fish.
It is no less important to the tourist sector, as it is also responsible for Baleares’ crystal-clear waters.
The most important posidonia meadows lie between Ibiza and Formentera, stretching as far as the Bay of Palma up to Pollença and the Bay of Alcudia in north Mallorca.
One hectare of posidonia converts as much carbon dioxide into oxygen as five hectares of Amazon rain forest but in recent years posidonia has been reduced by around 40 per cent.
This is partly the fault of boat-owners unaware that anchors do lasting damage to the seaweed. Also to blame was lack of action from the regional authorities.
This has recently changed, however. Until September 18, when the number of tourist craft decreases, areas where posidonia is threatened are to be patrolled by six Environment department boats. Officials will explain to boat-owners why the seaweed is so important and suggest alternative moorings.
They are authorised to impose fines which start at €100 for anchoring without permission and rising to an eye-watering €450,000 for serious offences such as polluting a protected area.
Nevertheless, the principal aim was not to impose fines, explained the Environment department, but to protect posidonia from unregulated anchoring.