The Mar Menor is a saltwater lagoon of the Mediterranean Sea, located in the Murcia province, in the southeast of Spain. It is semicircular and is in permanent communication with the Mediterranean Sea through the “golas” or canals.
It is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a strip of sand measuring 22 kilometers in length and from 100 to 1,200 meters wide, identified as The Manga del Mar Menor. The Mar Menor administratively depends on four municipalities in the province of Murcia: Cartagena, San Javier, San Pedro del Pinatar, and Los Alcazares.
The Mar Menor reaches 73 kilometers of coastline with its waters. It has an area of 135 square kilometers and its waters are shallow, the maximum being no more than 7 meters.
The Manga del Mar Menor
The strip of sand that delimits the Mar Menor from the Mediterranean Sea is the Manga del Mar Menor. It is the cause of the conformation of the Mar Menor, as formerly it was a bay that received the Mediterranean Sea.
La Manga del Mar Menor belongs administratively to the municipalities of Cartagena and San Javier. This sand tongue was formed by the natural compaction of sandy sediments for approximately 10 million years. These sediments came in particular from the mouth of the Segura River and from several headlands that progressively closed the bay and formed the Mar Menor.
The temperature of the Mar Menor is somewhat higher than that of the Mediterranean Sea. On its eastern side, it is surrounded by the Manga del Mar Menor, communicating with the Mediterranean Sea through a narrow space where the Estacio Bridge is located.
In the Mar Menor there are five islands, whose origin is volcanic. Three are identified as major islands: Isla del Ciervo, Isla Mayor, and Baron y La Perdiguera. The two smaller islands are Isla del Sujeto and La Redonda, also called Rondella.
The Mar Menor is considered one of the most representative symbols of the Murcia province. Historically, it has suffered from the loss of a great wealth of plants and animals, a degradation that goes back to past centuries, when, in defense of the pirate siege, the Manga del Mar Menor was gradually deforested to create sightlines from which to view pirate attacks.
Fauna and flora
Among the most beautiful typical vegetation of La Manga del Mar Menor are the Asteriscus maritimus, the sea daffodil, the prickly parsnip, the Asparagus macrorrhizus, the cardus marianus, the marram grass, the lentisk, and the Mediterranean sage, among others, which are in danger of disappearing or already non-existent due to the overwhelming urban development process that La Manga del Mar Menor has undergone.
Its sea species include: mollusks, prawns, seahorses, jellyfish, eels, big-scale sand smelts, giltheads, and mullets, among many others that have been disappearing due to economic activities and urban projects that have progressively polluted the sea.
In recent years, the alarm has been raised, warning of the progressive degradation of this unique space in Spain, in order to reverse the ecological damage that agricultural, tourist, industrial, mining, and fishing activities have caused in the Mar Menor.