Águilas is a coastal town of 35,000 inhabitants in the region of Murcia, southern Spain. The town dates back to Roman times and has had a close relationship with the sea ever since.
Historically, the city used the sea for trade and the export of extracted minerals such as iron, lead and silver. Later, intensive fishing was the main source of income for the population. Today, due to the overexploitation of the fishing grounds, the economy is focused on agriculture, mainly tomato production for the European market, while fishing mainly serves local markets.
However, the sea and the coast play a fundamental role for tourism, being the third most important source of income, especially during the summer months. Recreational activities centered on the sea include diving, surfing and sailing.
The coastline of Águilas is famous for its unspoiled beaches, shallow waters with large expanses of Posidonia meadows and rocky cliffs that give way to an underwater world of great biodiversity.
The challenges: balancing ecology and economy and adapting to climate change.
Despite this close relationship between the sea and social and economic life, knowledge about the ocean and recognition of the goods and services provided by the sea is relatively scarce among the local population.
In fact, in recent years the city has focused on land-based activities, especially intensive agriculture. This causes friction between farmers, fishermen and people engaged in tourism linked to the sea.
One particular problem is, for example, plastic waste from greenhouses that frequently reaches the sea, threatening the marine life that is essential for fishermen and tourism. On the other hand, marine protection initiatives restrict fishing grounds, which does not favor the profitability of fishing.
In addition, the Murcia region tops the list of global climate change epicenters. Specifically, the region faces serious desertification problems due to the reduction in rainfall, which in turn will sooner or later restrict the options for generating income through agriculture.
To meet these challenges, the government of the city of Águilas intends to make the transition to a sustainable economy, environmentally friendly tourism and marine protection. To this end, the city has taken steps to become a certified city for ecotourism and is also planning the future Cabo Cobe Marine Reserve of Fishing Interest.