Co-creating evidence-based business roadmaps and policy solutions for enhancing coastal-rural collaboration and synergies

Mar Menor Coastal Lagoon

Location and characteristics

The Mar Menor coastal lagoon (135 km2) is located in the Region of Murcia (SE Spain).

The area is characterized by multiple environmental, social-cultural and economic interests, often competing for scarce resources, water being the most important. There is a high potential for complementarity, win-win scenarios and development of sustainable business cases based on public-private collaboration, efficient use of water, and innovative farming practices and a transition to sustainable models of tourism and agriculture.

The catchment draining into the Mar Menor covers an area of 1.255 km2 and is mainly covered by intensive irrigated agriculture and tree crops. The intensive and highly profitable irrigated agriculture depends on scarce low quality groundwater and water from inland inter-basin water transfers. Agriculture provides labor and income to the region, but forms a source of excessive nutrients and contamination into the Mar Menor coastal lagoon. The resulting poor water quality affects the ecology of the lagoon with severe implications for its potential function for tourism and fisheries.

The coastal lagoon forms part of a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI).

The Mar Menor is one of the hotspots for tourism in the Region of Murcia, with a total number of 346,000 tourists and 1.4 million over-night stays in 2016. Beside international visitors, the Mar Menor has an important touristic function for the regional population (1.5 million inhabitants).

The availability of water for irrigation and drinking water for tourism will be further reduced under future climate conditions.

As such, the Mar Menor is strongly influenced by interactions between inland agriculture on the one side, and coastal tourism and fisheries affecting natural ecological values and socioeconomic sustainability on the other side.

The need to move towards sustainable models of agriculture, fishery and tourism is increasingly recognized and recently revived strongly due to sudden increase in contamination levels resulting in a strong drop in tourism.

How can we promote the sustainable economic, environmental and social development of the coastal areas of the Mar Menor and the hinterland rural areas?


  • Develop management models based on the effective use of natural resources through the transition to sustainable tourism and agriculture models that allow a good ecological status of the lagoon.
  • Identify pioneering sustainable business opportunities to initiate an ecological transition.


1. Tourism

2. Fishing and salt pans

3. Local populations

4. Agriculture

5. Public administrations

6. Research and NGOs


Spanish MAL coordination

Centre for Applied Soil Science and Biology (CEBAS-CSIC)

Joris de Vente (email: )

Javier Martínez-López (email: )

telephone: (+34) 968 396 200

Local partners of the Mar Menor Coastal Lagoon MAL

Government of the Region of Murcia (CARM)

María Monteagudo Albar (email: )

telephone: (+34) 968 2289 10

Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Murcia (FECOAM)

Ana Belén Olivares (email: )

Pedro Sánchez (email:  )

telephone: (+34) 968 351 282


Download the ES MAL flyer in Spanish language here.

Visit the Mar Menor case blog (in Spanish)