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Spotlight North: Boat overcrowding in Puerto Pollensa

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The Balearic environment minister, Miquel Mir, told parliament on Tuesday that there needs to be a debate about boat “overcrowding”. An old subject, new life was breathed into it over the summer by what Mir said was an increase in the number of Spanish tourists with boats.

The exchange in parliament covered two main issues. One was the sea’s “carrying capacity”, which roughly translates as how many boats there should be in any given place, and the other was illegal anchoring on posidonia meadows.

Both these issues are relevant to the bay of Pollensa, where the regional government’s Ports IB authority will regulate boats as from next year. The aim is to limit the number of boats that can anchor on a daily basis to 200.

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Pollensa town hall has taken a keen interest in all this, despite the fact that it has no powers and has been unable to do anything about boat overcrowding. Mayor Tomeu Cifre said on Wednesday that it has taken “twenty years of talking” for the responsible authorities to finally come up with a solution.

The town hall met with representatives from Ports IB, the Harbour Master’s Office, the Costas Authority and the regional environment ministry, all of which have their powers and their say, which is probably why it has taken so long – there are that many authorities.

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The mayor added that he hoped the maximum will be 150 boats a day and not 200. Either way, it will represent a reduction from 350. “We have been demanding for many years that this problem for our bay and marine ecosystem is solved. Limiting the number of anchored boats and maintaining constant regulation and control is the key.” He accepted that the limit will mean that not everyone will be able to come into Puerto Pollensa as they would like. However, the “priority is the common good, as is the safeguarding of the environment in order to prevent pollution and regenerate the seabed”.

Fine words, but the problem for Tomeu is that whenever he starts talking about the marine ecosystem and preventing pollution, someone will be on hand to remind him about the contamination from spills. At least all those with an interest in the contamination are now talking. How many years has that taken?

Meanwhile, the Associació Nàutica Albercutx, a body that was established a few months ago, has presented the town hall with plans for two marinas for the mooring of small boats. An objective would be to “reduce the number of boats anchored in an uncontrolled and unsafe manner” – the same objective therefore that Ports IB has but being tackled in a different way.

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The plans were drawn up by one of Pollensa’s “most prestigious architects” – Tomeu Cifre Bennàssar, a cousin of the mayor’s but a member of the opposition Junts Avançam; he was the councillor for urban planning between 2015 and 2019.

Prestigious he may be, a member of Junts he may be, but Junts reckon that the plans would harm the bay rather than provide a solution. “Construction of more infrastructure could cause more pollution and would be no guarantee of solving the problems with anchoring.”

Mayor Cifre says that if a private body wants to propose these marinas, the town hall will be “delighted”. However, he notes that the town hall itself presented something very similar to the Costas Authority but gave up because of the obstacles raised by the Costas.

The plans would therefore seem unlikely to get very far, and while they have come in for broader criticism because of a failure to take environmental consequences into account, you can’t knock people for showing initiative and seeking solutions to a longstanding problem.

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