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Gibraltar takes part in regional marine research of invasive algae

The Department of the Environment and Climate Change (DECC) has been working closely with regional marine experts to confirm the presence of an invasive brown algae in Gibraltar originating from central America and the Caribbean.

Although initially thought to be a similar species of Forkweed commonly found around Gibraltar’s coastline, experts in the field have now concluded that the brown algae washing up on Gibraltar’s shores is a tropical variant of Forkweed.

Its tropical origin adds credence to the theory that rising sea temperatures as result of climate change might be the reason for its presence in the Strait, the government said.

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News of the regional effort came with a domestic political sting.

“Climate change is one of the possible causes I stated in Parliament in reply to a question,” said the Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Dr John Cortes. “[Opposition environment spokesman] Mr [Trevor] Hammond tried to blame local reclamation, and others have mentioned the artificial reef as causes.”

“Clearly the wide nature of the problem, while not something to be pleased about, shows how wrong he was, and demonstrates the limited expertise and knowledge that Mr Hammond has in matters environmental.”

Scientists from the DECC have been actively involved in the research carried out in the wider Strait of Gibraltar by collecting samples for genetic identification as well investigating the impacts on the algae on local marine species.

To date, the problem has been particularly evident in the northern part of Gibraltar’s coasts including Western Beach, where both the Government and beach users have been involved in its removal.

The same problem has been evident in La Linea and very notably in Ceuta, where large quantities of the algae have also invaded their shores.

The government said DECC will continue to monitor the algae in British Gibraltar territorial waters in order to better understand its ecology and explore ways of minimising its impacts on local beaches and marine life.