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Aphanius iberus
January 9, 2009
2:47 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Ahem...I've been meaning to post this for ages but have never got around to resizing the pics before now. /rolleyes.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":rolleyes:" border="0" alt="rolleyes.gif" /> Here's a wee report on a trip I went on with fellow S.E.I. members Manuel, Juan Pablo and Roberto in September 2008. The idea was to sample several localities within the Delta Del Llobregat nature reserve close to Barcelona to see which species were living there and hopefully find some of the few remaining Aphanius in the area.

The Delta Del Llobregat is formed by the river Llobregat and originally covered an area of almost 100 square kilometers. Sadly most of this has now been turned over to pine forest, agriculture or heavy industry and only 3% of the original marshland now remains. Even with this the area is still the second largest river delta in Catalunya and is of international importance having been recognised by the European Union as a designated protected zone. Of particular significance is the diversity of birdlife found here but I won't concentrate on that now. Here's a link with a bit more info for those interested.

At this point I should say that although the reserve is open to the general public access is restricted to a few paths/hides for watching the birds and we had to apply for special documentation to get inside and dip our nets. This involved submitting identity documents (passport in my case) and as this is Spain a wait of an hour or two to get hold of the correct key for the security gates! /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" />

Anyway on with the report! Location 1 was Laguna de la Magarola, a small saltwater lagoon very close to the beach. Manuel and co had received a tip-off from an acquaintance that Aphanius had been seen here although a lot of doubt was expressed about this as we trudged up the beach with our stuff. Here's the lagoon:

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Manuel and Roberto taking water parameters:

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Values here were as follows; Temp. 23°C, Conductivity <20.000 µS, pH 8.3, Salinity 42g/l.
As predicted we didn't find any Aphanius here; the only fish present were some of the biggest Gambusia I've ever seen:

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There were loads and loads of these around the margins of the lagoon. This is a typical catch:

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The only other things we caught here were masses of tiny shrimp (Palaemonetes zariquieyi) and a large crab:

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Attached files

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Cake or death?
January 9, 2009
3:15 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Location 2; Laguna de la Ricarda is a larger lagoon just up the beach from location 1. Water parameters were Temp. 21°C, Conductivity 1.130 µS, pH 7.8, Salinity 5 g/l. This is the place:

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As we expected there were no Aphanius here either. Gambusia and Palaemonetes were again present in large numbers and Roberto netted another invasive species; a young Lepomis gibbosus. This predatory fish was introduced from North America and is also known as the pumpkinseed.

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Onto location 3, Laguna de Ca L'Arana. This lagoon was only created recently via the diversion of some of the River Llobregat's flow. Water parameters Temp. 23°C, Conductivity 20.000 µS, pH 8.3, Salinity 23 g/l. In the first of these two pictures you can see how close the reserve is to building developments and in the second the Mediterranean (the strip of water to the right). Roberto told me that the lagoon is sometimes inundated with seawater during bad weather:

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The only fish caught in the lagoon itself were several specimens of this cute little goby Pomatoschistus microps:

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Manuel was quite excited about this site as a possible reintroduction point for Aphanius iberus due to the lack of invasive species and shallow vegetated margins. The only Gambusia seen here were restricted to this small freshwater channel feeding the lagoon:

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Cake or death?
January 9, 2009
3:44 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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After a fine lunch of local meats and beer (what more does a man need? /tongue.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":p" border="0" alt="tongue.gif" />) we headed off to our final location for the day; Laguna del Remolar. This is the "official" protected location for Aphanius iberus within the reserve and again is totally inaccessible to the general public. It's also only a few hundred metres from and directly underneath the flightpath of one of the main runways of Barcelona airport so is not for the faint of heart as every few minutes enormous jets were passing right over our heads! /wacko.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":wacko:" border="0" alt="wacko.gif" /> The lagoon is absolutely tiny:

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This second lagoon connects to the other via a small channel but we didn't find any Aphanius here. You can see the proximity of the location to Barcelona airport:

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We fished the lagoon for a couple of hours and quickly realised the situation for our target species was even worse than we'd imagined. The place was absolutely swarming with Gambusia. Each dip of the net was turning up maybe 10 or 20 of the little buggers:

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The dashing chap at the front of this pic is yours truly I'm afraid. /blush.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":blush:" border="0" alt="blush.gif" />

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In almost 2 hours we must have caught thousands of Gambusia and only managed 14 Aphanius. Worse, all of the fish appeared quite young and only 4 of them were female. /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />

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Manuel and the guys said that the numbers of Aphanius found here are dwindling year on year and that this was the worst state they'd ever seen the population in. Depressing news and from what I saw there just seems to be no hope that the species can survive long term in this particular locality. The "conservation programme" appeared to consist of restricting access to the site and erecting a couple of signs which is all well and good but if nothing is being done to protect the fish from the Gambusia threat then what is actually being achieved here? We had permission to remove a few specimens so the ones in the pic above travelled back to Zaragoza with Manuel where they will be added to the breeding programme I've covered elsewhere on the forum but unfortunately I don't think this population stands any chance of survival unless drastic action is taken.

Well that's it. Hope some of you found this interesting reading and thanks once again to the boys for giving me the opportunity to join them on this trip and putting up with my pidgin Spanish. Estoy mejerando chicos, prometo!! /biggrin.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":D" border="0" alt="biggrin.gif" />

Attached files

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Cake or death?
January 9, 2009
5:13 pm
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oaken
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Nice pictures. Are there any more locations besides Laguna del Remolar where they can be found?

January 9, 2009
10:16 pm
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Bluedave
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Great thread Matt, really interesting.

Is there nothing that can be done about the 'conservation programme'?

January 10, 2009
2:11 pm
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thelizzious
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QUOTE (Bluedave @ Jan 9 2009, 10:59 PM) < {POST_SNAPBACK}>
Great thread Matt, really interesting.

Is there nothing that can be done about the 'conservation programme'?

Matt, do we know how these conservation programmes work in other countries, like the UK?

January 10, 2009
3:08 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Thanks guys. /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> Gustav yeah it can be found in various places down the Spanish coastline but basically is in decline across its entire range and its listed as "endangered" on the IUCN red list. The future doesn't look good basically. /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />

Dave we'll have to wait for Manuel for further comments on the conservation programme; the stuff I wrote above is just my opinion based on what I saw that day. You would hope that something could be done but its difficult to identify potential options. How to remove thousands of Gambusia from the lagoon without harming the Aphanius?

Liz in my experience the level of conservation programmes tends to vary depending on the species. Small fish such as this often tend to be towards the bottom of the priority list unfortunately. /rolleyes.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":rolleyes:" border="0" alt="rolleyes.gif" />

Here's a pic of a male from Manuel's website. I think it's quite a pretty wee thing.

Attached files

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Cake or death?
January 11, 2009
9:47 am
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keith565
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very interesting write up Matt, but depressing. although i'm a fan of gambusia, i hate to think they will be the main cause for the decline or even extinction of Aphanius Iberus.
lets hope the spanish government realise what they would loose if this were to happen.

January 11, 2009
2:16 pm
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thelizzious
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Or hit them with something like this : http://www.thepetitionsite.com.....-petitions, just to let them know we're not just another fish-geek-website doing nothing while even the smallest parts of the food chain in our waters gets lost, because which species will come next. Eventually the whole chain will collaps like a cardhouse..

January 14, 2009
9:34 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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That's actually not a bad idea Liz. /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> Let me send Manuel an email and see if he thinks it's worth it. Will come back on this as soon as I receive a reply.

Cake or death?
January 15, 2009
2:29 pm
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thelizzious
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QUOTE (Matt @ Jan 14 2009, 10:17 PM) < {POST_SNAPBACK}>
That's actually not a bad idea Liz. /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" /> Let me send Manuel an email and see if he thinks it's worth it. Will come back on this as soon as I receive a reply.


It is really not good news but I found this article and a few more, which confirm it's habitat is on the brink : http://resources.metapress.com.....df-preview...amp;size=larger

January 16, 2009
10:05 am
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keith565
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can't get the link to work.

January 16, 2009
10:38 pm
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Matt
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You have mail Keith mate. /wink.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=";)" border="0" alt="wink.gif" />

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