Balearic Islands are located in the center of the Western Mediterranean and constitute an archipelago built up of five major islands (larger to smaller: Mallorca, Menorca, Eivissa, Formentera and Cabrera). All of them, except Cabrera, are inhabited. Total population of Balearic Islands is 1.113.114 inhabitants according with the population register of 2011 (IBESTAT. Balearic Islands Statistics Institute). Mallorca island has a population of 873.414 inh, Menorca has 94.875 inh, Eivissa has 134.460 inh and Formentera 10.365 inh. Cabrera is the main island of a small archipelago located at southeast of Mallorca, were declared National Park in 1991 due to the importance and richness of their habitats and ecosystems and doesn’t have a stable population. Balearic Islands have an area of 498.459 ha, 362.254 of them corresponds to Mallorca, Menorca has an area of 69.472 ha, Eivissa 57,176 ha, Formentera 8.250 ha and the archipelago of Cabrera 1.306 ha.
Balearic Islands have a shoreline length of 1,723 km (Topographic Map of Balearic Islands 2006 on scale 1/5.000 reflected at IBESTAT). Mallorca and the archipelago of Cabrera have a shoreline length of 842 km, Menorca has 432 km, Eivissa 334 km and Formentera 115 km. The economy of Balearic Islands has a high dependence on tourist sector and clearly oriented on the mass tourism (“sun and beach” model). Coastal areas, especially beaches, are subjected to a high pressure during high season (summer months) and for these reasons are very important areas for the economy of the islands. In this sense is important to preserve, as far as possible, physical and ecological characteristics of the coastal areas.
In the Balearic Islands the absence of oil exploitations and refineries requires that all fuels must be imported by sea. Thus the archipelago could be affected by an oil spill. The high frequency of maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea (cargo and passenger), present a higher intensity in the corridor linking the Suez Canal to the Strait of Gibraltar (Figure 1 http://globalmarine.nceas.ucsb.edu/, accessed 20/07/2012) and the condition of the Mediterranean as a confined sea, commits all coastal areas in case of any accident of a merchant ship, ferry or oil tanker. The Balearic Islands are not exempt to be affected by a spill and therefore should be taken as appropriate contingency measure to study the sensitivity of the coastline.
In Balearic Islands exists a high frequency local and domestic maritime traffic (between islands and between Balearics and Iberian Peninsula, Figure 2) which increases during summer season. In addition in Western Mediterranean there are maritime routes between Northern coasts of Africa with Southern Europe which normally crosses the archipelago or navigates close to balearic territorial waters, this fact implies the necessity to take preventive measures and studies faced to a possible event of marine pollution.
Figure 1: This figure shows maritime routes (cargo and passengers) of the Mediterranean Sea (figure capture from: http://globalmarine.nceas.ucsb.edu/.). Balearic Islands are located inside de dark dashed lines.
Figure 2: Maritime traffic (cargo and passengers) of the Balearic Islands.
Balearic Islands, located in the center of Western Mediterranean, the uniqueness of coastal natural areas (most of them protected) and the economical dependence on its coasts due to the economical specialization in tourism, must have prevention mechanisms (i.e. studies of shoreline environmental sensitivity) front to a possible event of marine pollution. Balearic coasts could be damaged by an oil spill or similar substances due to many causes, some of them are listed below according with Bergueiro & Moreno (2002):
2) Ferries accident (Cargo and passengers). Could be due to collisions between them or sinking (Figure 2). A good example is the sinking of merchant vessel Don Pedro in front of the coasts of Eivissa city in July 2007.
3) Loading and unloading of oil tankers in ports.
4) Load and unload in ports and coastal areas of trucks used to transport oil/fuel.
5) Accidents or breaks of pipelines
6) Accidents or breaks of storage tanks