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Spain - Almost 9,000 tuna escaped from San Pedro del Pinatar fish farm during the storm

1,300 dead tuna weighing 100 kilos each have been recovered from the sea and the beaches. This means that many have yet to be located.

Among the businesses to have suffered most economic harm during the destructive “gota fría” storm of 12 to 14th September are many crop farmers whose land disappeared under floodwater, but arguably even more severe damage was done to the tuna fish farm belonging to Grupo Ricardo Fuentes 4.5 kilometres off the coast of San Pedro del Pinatar and Pilar de la Horadada.

During the storm eight of the large cage enclosures in which tuna were being fattened broke open, allowing almost 9,500 bluefin tuna, each weighing over 100 kilos, a chance to escape into the open sea. Unfortunately many of the fish failed to survive and almost immediately dead tuna started to wash up on the beaches of La Manga, while carcasses have also been recovered all along the eastern Costa Cálida (Águilas) and in the southern Costa Blanca, (Orihuela and Torrevieja amongst them) both from the coastline and from the water.

It is reported that the total weight of the 1,300 dead tuna recovered so far comes to 176,331 kilos, and the scale of the incident suggests that those figures could both rise substantially over the next few days. Only 800 of the tuna remained in their cages, leaving another 7,300 unaccounted for according to the latest figures.

Sources at Ricardo Fuentes e Hijos are quoted in regional newspaper La Verdad as reporting that a marine tornado off the coast of Pilar de la Horadada was responsible for a series of “adverse atmospheric and oceanographic phenomena”, which in turn caused the vast cages to tip over on their axes, twisting the metal framework and ripping nets open.

As for the reason for so many of the escaped tuna having died, it is believed that the stress of the incident may be responsible as the cardio-respiratory system of the bluefin tuna is particularly sensitive.

As for the losses sustained by Ricardo Fuentes e Hijos it is too early as yet to assess the full damage, but the figure is expected to rise into tens of millions of euros. Bluefin tuna is an especially sought-after species in the Japanese market, and prices are high due to fishing quotas having been in place for over a decade worldwide.

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