the dreaded invasive asian algae which, coming from the Far East, is reaching the coasts of the Peninsula, continues to advance through the Mediterranean. After being detected in Ceuta, Granada and Almería, now its growth has been verified on the coasts of Alicante, from where it could continue jumping towards new points of the coast. The concern is maximum, because it is a species that threat to posidonia (important source of CO2 capture and focus of biodiversity), as well as artisanal fishing and tourism.
Researchers from the University of Alicante (UA) have detected the presence of the Asian algae Rugulopteryx okamurae on the Alicante coast, so it is not ruled out that it could spread to the rest of the Mediterranean.
Experts in marine biodiversity warn that this algae poses “a danger that jeopardizes environmental, economic and social sustainability of the affected areas. Destroy everything in its path“. In fact, its cytotoxic capacity means that it can kill other species in less than 24 hours.
“Itchy face and hands”
In addition, people who have worked in the manipulation of the algae arribazones have suffered itching on face and hands due to “chemical arsenal” that it presents, more powerful than that of the autochthonous species.
The Rugulopteryx okamurae came to Europe from Asia in 2002 with ballast water from ships. Its presence was known in the Strait of Gibraltar in 2016. It is included in the Catalog of Invasive Alien Species (EEI). Its native area is around Japan and Korea, as well as some other countries in the area.
Arrived in Spain in 2015
“In Spain it first appeared in the arribazones on the beaches of Ceuta at the end of 2015 and it has spread throughout the Alboran Sea, where it has shown a great colonizing capacity, negatively affecting native marine species, as well as artisanal fishing and tourism”, according to the UA researchers.
In fact, It forms large accumulations on the beaches, difficult to manage and remove by the affected municipalities.
“Recently, it has also been detected in the Canary Islands, as well as in Almería and Granada, and a rapid expansion is expected throughout the rest of the Mediterranean. Due to these characteristics, it was declared an invasive exotic species and a strategy was established for its monitoring and control at the national level”, the experts have pointed out, according to a statement from the AU.
Discovery on the Alicante coast
On the Alicante coast, the algae had already been observed in large quantities in samples collected by students and teachers of the Marine Zoology subject of the UA’s Degree in Marine Sciences during practices carried out at the beginning of last March.
As a result of the finding, the UA researchers identified the alga by means of a morphological and molecular characterization. In addition, they carried out a rapid prospecting to assess the extension and abundance of this algae in the underwater zone, as well as in the accumulations or arribazos of the beaches.
Currently, according to the experts, the alga is found in great abundance in the center of the bay of Alicante, growing mainly on the dead Posidonia oceanica bush which abounds in the area.
Researchers have found large numbers of Rugulopteryx okamurae on the seabed, accumulating on some nearby beaches, such as San Gabriel and Urbanova, but also on other more distant tourist beaches, such as Arenales and coves at Cabo de Santa Pola, dispersed by the waves. and ocean currents.
The danger posed by this algae is enormous, since its impacts are not only biological and ecologicalsince his presence is also causing strong socioeconomic impactsespecially in the professional fishing sector, has stressed the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.
The arrival of large volumes of arrivals of this algae on the beaches generates, in turn, impact on tourism activities, and its withdrawal by the administrations involved is increasingly costly. So, In 2019, five municipalities in the provinces of Málaga, Cádiz and Ceuta had to remove up to 10,000 tons of algaewhich meant a cost of 400,000 euros.
Government strategy for the control and possible eradication of the Asian algae:
Contact of the Environment section: [email protected]