A thick, brown blanket is threatening the coastline of the Costa del Sol. The aggressive intruder responds to the name of 'rugulopterix okamurea' and it shouldn't be here.
It is an indigenous algae of the Pacific and, in 2019, it wreaked havoc in the Strait of Gibraltar. The images from then still scare the local fishermen. For a time, all they caught in their nets was the sticky mass. Every day an army of bulldozers had to go out to clean the beaches of this intruder imported by the freighters that sail the seas to carrying merchandise from the Asian continent to Europe.
This Monday (14 June) scientists of the Aula del Mar marine education centre in Malaga, have again discovered the invader on the Calaburras Lighthouse beach in Mijas.
“This algae is very aggressive and difficult to eradicate. It is a danger to the local fauna and flora”, points out the president of the Aula del Mar, Juan Antonio López.
So far, this species has hardly been studied. In Spain there are few experts but all, says López, are shocked by the aggressiveness of this species, against which there is no simple remedy.
“Having been declared an invader, in theory, it cannot be touched. So we have no choice but to wait and see whether it disappears naturally in the next few days,” says the biologist.
But there is a risk that it will spread and "we may be facing a major environmental problem," warns López.
A proliferation would also be detrimental to tourism, which, more than ever, needs pristine beaches to face the long-awaited summer of recovery.