This week I have given the blog over to my friends Adrian and Antonio who run Marisma21, a recent addition to the Fair to Nature family and a new commodity for us in the form of salt. With dieticians telling us we should consume less salt (yet it is surely one of the most effective and healthy preservatives and I like the taste!)  I think they give a valid reason why using Marisma21 salt (in moderation) is better for you, traditions , the environment and nature. 

Antonio, Adrian & Simon working together for Fair to Nature salt

Antonio, Adrian & Simon working together for Fair to Nature salt

Economic growth is often the plague of conservation or at least on the face of it can appear to be. However sustainable economic development should involve the evolution from a model based on simply economic growth generating environmental dysfunctions, to a model that interconnects economic, social and environmental benefits.

These concepts were already applied by the traditional salt culture in the Bay of Cadiz, before the concept was defined on the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 1992.

The traditional extracting method in use here, since Roman and Phoenicians times, was fully respectful to nature; through shaping the habitat, generating an economy, and developing an environmental variety that lead to biodiversity growth.

There are just few samples in the world where the human economy is not negatively impacting upon biodiversity levels. The case of Cadiz traditional salines are instead a benefit to the economy, environment, nature and people.

The National Park of the Bay of Cadiz, hosts over 100.000 birds during the winter and more than 6.000 birds in the breeding season and is placed in a strategic point in the East Atlantic flyway, ensuring this area is an important stopover for migrating, wintering and breeding birds.

Tragically development has led to the creation of intensive and industrial salt pans as well as the draining and modification of these traditional saltpans for other land-uses, leading to a loss of traditional skills, knowledge and the diversity of nature.

Add to this the issue of abandonment of these traditionally managed saltpans and this important feeding habitat for wading birds has been in rapidly serious decline. The ecological crisis in the saline sector at the Bay of Cadiz has been significant. Around the middle of 20th Century, 80% of the salines were abandoned. From the 136 active salines active in the previous century, only 11 salines remained in 1996 and disastrously for those wading birds just 4 remained in 1999.

At the moment, more than half of those old salines have been converted to the intensive aquiculture; the rest, either disappeared becoming fossilised by the continuous soil filling practiced to increase the industrial or urban terrain, or they are abandoned, leading to a decline in the macro-fauna and fish populations that so many birds have come to feast upon.

Greater Flamingos using traditional and Fair to Nature salt-pans surrounded by industrial development © Simon Tonkin

Greater Flamingos using traditional and Fair to Nature salt-pans surrounded by industrial development © Simon Tonkin

In order to recover the salines it is not enough to merely protect the areas from pressures such as development and land-use change, as an artificial habitat dependant on human action, it is necessary to reinstate the active usage to maintain it. The majority of abandoned salines cannot recover anywhere near their ecological value without an appropriate traditional usage. Once the control of water level is lost, then the depth and salinity levels are lost, forcing salinity levels in an extremely short time into decline and the loss of the ecologic treasures of nature dependent on this habitat.

Marisma 21, demonstrates the economic value of these handcrafted salines from the Bay of Cadiz through the economic distinction of the product, by being Fair to Nature. Producing salt that is Fair to Nature can lead to other diversification opportunities such as nature tourism or ecotourism, cultural tourism, environmental education, research and development, etc.

Our salt is “Virgin Sea Salt”. Which means salt directly extracted in salines through a process of evaporation and traditional procedures ensures the best outcomes for nature by following traditional and Fair to Nature procedures. Additionally the Sea Salt has a lower percentage of sodium chloride compared to the industrial obtained salt, with elements such as iodine, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese and others found naturally occurring in sea water, with no need for additives.

The saline of “El Águila” is placed on the Puerto Real (Cadiz) land, in the heart of the Bay of Cadiz Natural Park. A really little area compared with the rest of the Natural Park.

The owner, Diego Vargas, is an example of survival. Diego continues  to extract his “Virgin Sea Salt” in the age-old tradition completely by hand. Diego does not use any mechanical assistance compared with the huge machines on the industrial salines. Management by hand means the macro-fauna present in the salines is not stripped by large machines ensuring this vital food resource is available for other wildlife. Yet his knowledge and skills passed to him by his father and grandfather are very much endangered.

Extracting salt the traditional way by hand © Simon Tonkin

Extracting salt the traditional way by hand © Simon Tonkin

For Diego, the saline is his life, to see this “salinero” working using thousands of years old practices, which respect the environment and then being surrounded by roads, trains, industrial areas and development provides quite a contrast. His saltpans are a “Life Island” to the birds that breed, winter and pass through the area.

This saline, should be an example of the recovery of handcrafted salines but also can, by being Fair to Nature demonstrates the ability to protect traditional practices, enhance the environment and provide a home to nature through economical benefits

……so pass the (Fair to Nature) salt please!

Blog by Adrián Sánchez Barea, Antonio Jesús Rivero Reyes, Simon Tonkin

Bay of Cadiz Virgin Sea Salt will soon be available to purchase via the Marisma21 website

Extracting salt the traditional way by hand © Simon Tonkin

Extracting salt the traditional way by hand © Simon Tonkin

Tagged with: