More than 50 dead moray eels have been washed up on the beaches of the popular tourist island of Ibiza scaring beachgoers and concerning wildlife experts.
The first dead eels were found on Talamanca beach, near Ibiza town, on the Spanish Balearic island, and the discovery was initially treated as an isolated incident.
But then a beachgoer shared on Facebook a picture of a dead moray eel he had taken at nearby Es Cavallet beach where he said he had been shocked to see a lot of dead eels.
And eels have now been washed up on beaches throughout one half of the island – although no dead eels have been sighted elsewhere on Ibiza or on the other Balearic islands.
Officials have been alarmed by the high number of moray eel deaths and have launched an investigation to find out why they are dying.
The island’s fisheries inspector, Toni Box, said possible causes included pollution or disease but it was too early to draw conclusions.
But he discounted the theory that the eels had washed up on beaches after being caught by fishermen and then thrown back into the sea.
“This is not fishermen, that is clear, something is happening with the morays,” he said.
Oceanographer Veronica Nuez said: “This is a mortality thing that I have never seen here before and this has worried us.”
Tests have been carried out on the water off the beaches where the dead eels have appeared but the results have revealed nothing out of the ordinary.
It has been claimed that the beaches have been affected by sewage in recent years although experts say this has not been sufficient to affectthe environment.
Government officials have now sent samples of the dead eels to a specialist lab in the Galicia region of north-western Spain for analysis and are awaiting the results.
They have also asked local divers’ clubs to ask their members to keep an eye out for dead eels, and other marine wildife, in the sea.