Catalunya Is ‘Capital Of Whales’
Whales have made themselves at home off the coast of Catalunya. A total of 222 have been spotted this spring alone, nearly double the number seen in the sea-mammal ‘feeding zones’ identified by conservationists since they started off the ‘Rorqual Project’ in 2013. Of those seen in spring 2021, around 75 have been identified through drone footage and the rest sighted by humans.
The high rainfall and low temperatures in winter and early spring in Mediterranean Spain meant an increase in plankton, particularly krill, in the area, for Rorqual or Fin Whales to feed on. Three satellite markers have been set up to follow the Fin Whale’s movements and these have been key to discovering where the feeding grounds are. May seems to be the month when numbers are highest.
Some of the biggest threats to the survival of Mediterranean Whales are human-generated, such as collisions with large boats. There are laws in place to protect Whales, Dolphins and other sea creatures, making it illegal to sail up close to them.
One very regular visitor, nicknamed Bruixa (‘Witch’), has been seen in seven different years and in 2021, has been spotted five times. In June and July, the Whales which settle in Catalunya to feed start to head south towards the Atlantic, are Rorquals which spend their summer in the Ligurian Sea and follow towards the southern hemisphere.
Between summer and September, Whales can be seen from eastern Spain, particularly Cabo de Palos (Murcia Region), Cabo de Gata (Almería province), Dénia and Jávea (Northern Alicante Province) and, later in the year, in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Summer Traffic Fine ‘Myths’
When road traffic law breaches refer to ‘licence points’, a Spanish licence starts off with 12 and these are deducted for offences, leading to a ban once the total falls to zero.
Fact or fake? The General Directorate of Traffic (DGT), part of the transport ministry, can fine you for not wearing a mask in the car if you’re travelling with people from outside your household.
A bit of both: The DGT cannot and will not fine you, because it’s not a traffic offence – it’s a public health law. The Guardia Civil can and possibly will. They are likely to tell you all to put your masks on and warn you that a repeat failure to do so will cost you.
Fact or fake? Smoking whilst driving can cost you licence points and a fine of up to €4,000.
Fake: There’s no law against smoking and driving. If you are putting other road users at risk, by groping around on the floor for your lighter etc instead of looking out of the windscreen, it is considered a distraction creating a hazard. Smoking a spliff before or whilst driving is illegal, as is the consumption of any non-medical drugs that remain in your system when you’re at the wheel.
Fact or fake? The new emergency telephone number for urgent traffic-related issues, such as accidents, is 088 and, unlike the 112, 062 or 091 numbers, which carry a charge, 088 is free.
Fake: The 112 emergency hotline, and the 062 to the Guardia Civil or 091 to the National Police are free of charge. If your pay-as-you-go phone is out of credit, you can call them and if your phone battery is too low to make calls but enough to keep it switched on, you can still ring 112. Calling 088 could mean you get a hefty phone bill, as it is a premium-rate number set up by con-artists. Don’t chance it and delete any messages you get referring to it, or to any other numbers that are not the three mentioned above.
Fact or fake? It’s a legal requirement to carry a breathalyser in your car on Spain’s roads. At police checkpoints, passengers as well as drivers will now be breathalysed, with passengers facing fines if they are over the limit.
Fake: Passengers can drink as much as they want, provided they do not act in such a way as to present a danger whilst under the influence and will not be breathalysed. It is not the law in Spain to carry a breathalyser in your car.
Fact or fake? Traffic authorities are now sending fine notifications via email, with links to click on to arrange payment.
Fake: This is another attempt at identity theft, trying to steal your passwords and bank data and clear out your account. If you have been caught on camera breaking the speed limit or committing any other driving offence, you will be notified by post – normally registered post – and a speed-camera letter will include a photograph of your car at the time and location concerned. This letter will give you details of how to pay.
If you have registered yourself on the DGT’s online platform – accessed with a digital certificate – you will get your notifications on here and you may receive an email telling you that you have a ‘new notification’, inviting you to open the traffic authority website in a separate tab. Don’t click on links you get via email, of any type, unless you trust the source.
Fact or fake? Throwing cigarette ends out of the window, not having your driving licence on your person, or driving with more passengers than your vehicle is designed to carry, can attract fines.
Fact: All these are driving offences for which you will be fined.
Fact or fake? Washing your car in the street, with a hose or bucket, as opposed to on private land or in a petrol-station car-wash, will earn you a traffic fine of between €30 and €3,000.
Fake: It’s not a traffic offence to wash your car in a public place, but it is nearly always a breach of local bye-laws on a par with littering or not clearing up dog-poo. Local councils can set their own levels of fines for civic offences.
Fact or fake? You can be fined for driving whilst wearing flip-flops or in bare feet, driving whilst naked from the waist up, drinking from a water bottle whilst at the wheel, or hanging a hand or an elbow out of the window.
Fake: There is no specific law about any of these in Spain, but if doing so affects your being able to drive safely, or prevents others from driving safely, a police officer may consider you should be fined.
Fact or fake? If your passenger sits with his or her feet on the dashboard, you can be fined.
Fake: There is no specific traffic offence of ‘feet on dashboard’, although a fine or, at least, a warning may be given if this sitting position obscures your clear view through the windscreen.