Recreational Boating Studies in the Balearic Islands

Background and initial studies

A study published by the Chamber of Commerce of Mallorca estimated that the charter boating industry in the Balearic Islands generates € 209.7 million annually (Cambra de Comerç de Mallorca. 2010. El Turismo de charter náutico. Illes Balears).  In 2008, the islands were host to 324 522 recreational boaters (CITTIB 2009). In addition to being one of the most lucrative sectors of the tourism industry, recreational boating is a popular activity for the resident population. Sustainable recreational use of coastal and marine areas generally requires a trade-off between social and environmental objectives. The factors that influence and define this trade-off will vary in relation to the characteristics of the associated social-ecological system (e.g. natural environment, user expectations, recreational activity, spatial limits). Adaptable scientific methods for the collection and analysis of interdisciplinary data and the effective transfer of this information to decision-makers are important components of recreational management processes.

In order to respond to this need, the SIAS Division has continued a research project on “Limits to Growth in the Balearic Islands”, a project that was initiated in 2007 at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA) with funding from the Chamber of Commerce of Mallorca (2007-2010). A series of publications, highlighted below, have been produced from this research. 

The first study (Balaguer et al. 2011) presents a spatial analysis and estimation of pressure (physical carrying capacity) of recreational boating along the coast of Mallorca. The study combines data from the natural (habitats, geology), physical (wave patterns), and social sciences (survey interviews), using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as the main analytical tool. The final result is an estimate of the average amount of seabed available for anchoring during the highest levels of boating activity in Mallorca (i.e. summer high season) based on a number of different sustainability scenarios (i.e. average distance between boats, weather conditions, presence of absence of sensitive Posidonia oceanica (seagrass) habitats). In addition to being applicable to any location wishing to manage recreational boating activity, the methodology presented in this study represents an integrated, multidisciplinary approach which could be applied to a number of management scenarios with a spatial dimension in marine environments. 

The second study (Diedrich et al. 2011) presents a simple methodological approach, based on the Limits of Acceptable Change process, to support the formulation of management measures for recreational boating in bays. Specifically, the focus is on minimizing the impacts of anchoring on sensitive seagrass habitats (Posidonia oceanica). Management measures have been determined using statistical and geospatial analyses of data of biophysical characteristics, use, and user perceptions in a bay on the island of Mallorca. 

A third study (Diedrich and Tintoré 2012) assesses the perceptions of beach users on a popular local beach adjacent to a heavily used recreational boating area. Specifically, the study determined the effects of crowding (people on the beach and boats in the bay) on the well being of visitors to the site. 

A final study was carried by SOCIB in collaboration with IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) out in summer 2011 which evaluated the beliefs and attitudes that influence the use of mooring buoys in a Marine Protected Area in the Bay of Palma. A publication for this study is currently in review and will be published shortly. 

The SIAS team will continue to build on the research in this area, implementing the methodology in additional locations and for different recreational scenarios, and incorporating more social and biological variables.