Águilas (región de Murcia, Spain)

Águilas is a coastal town with 35.000 inhabitants in the Murcia region in Southern Spain. The city dates back to Roman times and has ever since had a close relation to the sea. 

Historically, the city used the sea for trading and export of extracted minerals such as iron, lead and silver. Later, intensive fishery was the main income source for the population. Nowadays, due to the over-exploitation of the fishing grounds, the economy is focused on agriculture, mostly the production of tomatoes for the European market while fisheries are mostly serving the local markets.

However, the sea and the coastline play a key role for tourism, the third important source of income, mostly during the summer months. Recreational activities centering around the sea include diving, surfing and sailing. 

The coastline of Águilas is famous for its pristine beaches, shallow areas with large areas of seagrass meadows and rocky cliffs that lead into an underwater world of high biodiversity.

Sea grass meadow (Posidonia oceanica) of the coast of Águilas. Sea grass meadows provide important ecosystem services such as protection against coastal erosion, contribution to fishery by supporting food webs or absorption of pollutants by filtrating water thereby contributing to our wellbeing (Campagne et al., 2015). 

The challenges: balancing ecology and economy and adapting to climate change 

Despite this tight relationship between the sea and societal and economic life, ocean literacy and appreciation for the goods and services provided by the sea is relatively low among the local population. 

In fact, in recent years the city has focused on terrestrial activities, particularly the extensive agricultural use of the land. This causes friction between farmers, fishermen and people involved in (marine) tourism.

Specifically, plastic waste from the plastic greenhouses on land frequently gets into the sea threatening the marine live which is key for fisherman and tourism. On the other hand, initiatives for marine protection restrict fishing grounds which is unfavorable for making profits in fisheries.

Moreover, the region of Murcia is on top of the list of global climate change hot spots. Specifically, the region is facing serious issues of desertification due to reduced rainfalls which in turn will sooner or later restrict the options to generate income through agriculture. 

To address these challenges, the government of the City of Águilas aims to undergo a transition towards sustainable economy, environmentally-friendly tourism and marine protection. In order to do that, the city has taken steps to become a city certified for eco-tourism and it is also planning the future Marine Reserve of Cabo Cobe (Reserva Marina de Interés Pesquero de Cabo Cope).

Cabo Cope

We closely collaborate with Ginés Desiderio Navarro Aragoneses, Councilor of tourism, economy and education in Águilas and Jose Martinez Navarro, owner of the dive school „Buceo Estela”, and their teams to experience and immerse ourselves into local life and the underwater world.

To support the shift towards a symbiotic lifestyle, the community of Águilas is open to explore arts and science as powerful means of communication and innovation.