Category Archives: FAUNA AND FLORA

The “Vieja” in Fuerteventura: Cretan Sparisoma

Photo: © Rafa Santamaría

One of the most representative species of the marine fauna in Fuerteventura and its gastronomy is renowned Vieja (Cretan Sparisoma). 

In our daily excursions to the neighbouring islet of Lobos the presence of this species cheers up the sea bottom with vivid and bright colours, red and yellow in the female.

The Cretan Sparisoma belongs to the superclass of gnathostomata vertebrates, fish that have a bony internal skeleton (bony fishes), made ​​up of many calcareous structures and few cartilaginous ones. Apart from its internal skeleton it also has flaky bones in its dermis, which is known as exoskeleton.

Its mouth is small and terminal, and it can make very precise movements, as it has articulated dermal bones, where their teeth grow, which are very strong but lack replacement when they fall or break. Its teeth are partially or completely fused, forming a pair of plates in each jaw,  in the shape of a parrot beak, which is why it’s so often called parrot fish.

It inhabits rocky bottoms, feeding on small crustaceans and invertebrates. It usually feeds by nibbling the bottom, introducing in its mouth even rock particles. Once in its stomach, this is responsible for separating the bits of rock from small crustaceans and invertebrates that are hidden in them, and then it ejects pieces of rock in the form of sand, so, it’s a fish that contributes to the formation the sandy bottom.

Its body is oval, with rounded front part and tapered head, and it’s a species that presents great colour differences between female and male specimens. While the male is brownish, the female has bright colours: red, indigo and yellow. Males can be up to 50 cm long.

Another characteristic feature of this species is that individuals can change sex, because of strategies developed throughout history to perpetuate the species.

This species has the two reproductive organs, male and female, but initially only one part matures and it is defined as male or female. However, when the specimen reaches a certain age and, for example, if the partner dies, the sex organs of the specimen remaining alive atrophy and the hormones stimulate the other reproductive organs to mature so that the survival of the species is ensured.

FuerteCharter | Vieja Fuerteventura

FuerteCharter | Vieja Fuerteventura

The art of fishing has its peculiarities and there is a large number of amateurs and professionals who are devoted to fishing only this species, and have a vast knowledge and wisdom about it. They name their rigging in a different way to the rest of fishermen, and they have a special fishing rod, with a very long and flexible tip, usually made with intelligence and with few means. Even the name they give to the low tides can change over that given by the rest of fishermen.

According to these men of the sea, “La vieja” is an intelligent fish that tests you and even laughs at you if you do not know how to fish it.” Good technique is necessary and not just cheat them by casting bait into the water. It’s very whimsical about the bait, and it only likes small rock crabs. In Fuerteventura it’s common to see fishermen at low tide, crouching to capture the delicacy that will help them get their trophies.

This type of fishing can be done either from shore or boat. In ancient times, fishing from barge required two sailors, one holding the oars and another one holding a fishing rod at the back, to jerk at the right time, as the other hand was busy holding the “mirafondos”: glass used to see how the fish approaches underwater. The sailors had their own sign language with their legs, as their hands were busy with fishing rods and rows, to communicate without words so as not to scare the wise fish. Thus, with their legs, the sailor wearing the “mirafondos” told the one rowing if he had to give paddling strokes and in which direction. Today fishing takes place in motor boats and the presence of two sailors per boat isn’t required. It’s either float fishing with rod and reel or with air fishing rod.

“La vieja” is also whimsical about its habitat, so it can be found both in the intertidal zone and on the coast, and tends to move from one place to another frequently.
According to the fishermen, the best time to catch them is at dawn, as “la vieja” always rests in the same place (roosts), and in the morning it wakes up hungry, and it is harder to refuse a delicious crab.

Team FuerteCharter

Turtle project in Fuerteventura

Some weeks ago we were talking about the beautiful specimens of Loggerhead Turtle that very often liven up our trips in Fuerteventura and we also commented on the existence in our island of an ambitious project aiming to bring back this specimen into the Canary Islands, which disappeared from our coasts 300 years ago, The Turtle Project. The Island Council of Fuerteventura, the Environment Department, the Biosphere Reserve and a group of volunteers have been working on this project, which has two basic lines of action, from 2006.

Reintroducing the Loggerhead Turtle

Some data confirm that sea turtles bred some years ago in Majorera coasts, but we suppose that the strong pressure exerted by the man on the coast made this species stop coming to lay their eggs here.
The Turtle Project intends to reintroduce the Loggerhead Turtle in the Canary Islands, more specifically in Fuerteventura, aiming to settle again a population of this species that, over time, will breed on the beaches of the Archipelago. With this purpose, they are requesting Cape Verde to give them a population of these turtles. The beach of Cofete has been considered, for several reasons, as the perfect site for the development of this project. 
In Cape Verde, in the island of Boa Vista, they have been studying the population of Loggerhead Turtles for several years, and one of the results of this study is that these turtles don’t always breed in the right place, and because of that, in some occasions the 80% of the eggs can be lost. It is precisely these eggs that Cape Verde is giving this project, trying not to jeopardise the population they have in that Archipelago.
Two turtle nurseries were set up in Fuerteventura, one in Playa de Cofete and another one in Morro Jable. The eggs were placed in Cofete and the first hatching was a complete success, which turns Cofete into an ideal habitat for the development of nests.

Once the eggs have hatched the new born turtles are moved to the nursery in Morro Jable, known as Cape Verdean  “Sodade” (homesickness). In this place the little turtles are looked after and fed — about approximately one year— with the aim of their reaching the necessary development to release them, increasing their possibilities of getting ahead once they are free, as newborn turtles are really vulnerable. After the first year it’s time to release them.
The Loggerhead Turtle is characterised for always breeding on the same beach they were born, so it’s expected that fifteen years later, when they reach their maturity, they will come back and breed on Cofete beach, witness of their creation.  This is the aim of the project, as if these turtles breed on our coasts they will repopulate the archipelago over the years. But in order to achieve a complete success of this ambitious project our cooperation is necessary, not just the one from institutions.  As we said in our previous article, this is a slow reproductive rate species, as not only do the females reach their sexual maturity between the age of 15 and 33 but they only lay eggs every two or three years. Moreover, once the eggs hatch very few of them become adults. 
For this reason, adding to the scarcity of beaches to nest the fact that many specimens die tangled in fishing nets, asphyxiated in the trawls, trapped in plastics waste… it’s considered that The Loggerhead Turtle is an endangered species.
Although we haven’t been able to move out eggs from The Cape Verde to Fuerteventura for some years, the Island council states that the hatching of eggs on Cofete beach is about to start again, thus aiming to increase the possibilities of success of this project.

Recovering turtles

Within the Turtle Project there is a second line of action: that of recovering and healing injured turtles, where institutions as well as a group of volunteers who have invested their time in this project are working on the reintroduction of these turtles. It’s necessary that all of us contribute to this recovery, alert on seeing an injured turtle so it can be rescued, healed and release again into the sea…
Just today we have had the chance to witness how a young specimen of Loggerhead Turtle, after having been recovered and healed, has been released in Grandes Playas, Corralejo, by environmental agents —landscape that we enjoy in our trips in Fuerteventura—. We leave you with the pictures we have taken of this beautiful turtle and we encourage you to be alert and contribute to this ambitious project…

We also encourage you to enjoy the sea and, hopefully, in the company of these turtles; we can assure than on countless occasions in our trips in Fuerteventura you can see them float on the surface in order to take the sun they need to increase their body temperature as they, as reptiles, must thermoregulate.

 FuerteCharter Team


FuerteCharter | Proyecto Tortuga Fuerteventura

Proyecto-tortuga-Fuerteventura
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FuerteCharter | Proyecto Tortuga Fuerteventura

The monk seal: an ancient inhabitant in our coasts

As many of you know, one of the greatest attractions of our boat trips from Corralejo is the visit to our neighbour islet of Lobos.

The islet of Lobos was named like this after a colony where a great deal of monk seals from the Mediterranean (Monachus monachus),also known as sea lions or sea cows, lived and nowadays they have completely disappeared from our coasts.

The quality and marine biodiversity in these waters, together with the loneliness and isolation they enjoyed in that environment turned the islet of Lobos into an excellent retreat for the development of this species, which came to gather thousands of specimens.

When the conquest of this island began to take place these animals were chased by the conquerors, who coveted their fur, grease and meat, causing the extinction of this species in our coasts in the Middle Ages.

Description
The Monk Seal from the Mediterranean Sea is a pinniped mammal, from the family Phocidae, and it’s one of the most weird species that exist. In ancient times it inhabited the whole Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic in the North of Africa, reaching Madeira, The Canary Islands, Cape Verde and its remains date back to 12-14 thousand years.

The name of the monk seal has two different interpretations: on the one hand it makes reference to the isolated character of this species, as it inhabits coast areas which are difficult to reach and far away from the human beings —just like the monks, who retrieved themselves in secluded monasteries— and on the other hand, the wrinkles around its neck look like the shawl that Franciscan monks wear on their shoulders.

It has a strong body, with rounded head and short limbs in the shape of flippers. The usual size of males is around 300cm long, and they weigh around 350kg, while the females are around 290 cm long and weigh around 300kg. The fur covering their whole body is short and either grey or dark brown (white on their belly)

Habitat and distribution
This species usually looks for shelter in sea caves, although in the past, when there were large settlements, they also were on sand beaches. We can easily imagine them sunbathing on the beach of La Concha in the islet of Lobos.

In ancient times they spread, as we have already said, all over the Mediterranean, mainly in Spain (Baleares, Cataluña, Alicante, Murcia, Almería and The Canary Islands), but little by little, The man, the fishermen’s greed, who could see their fish shoals threatened, and the boom of tourism took this species to more and more hidden areas, and nowadays, as Spanish specimens, the only ones left are in Chafarinas Islands (Spanish colony in the Alboran Sea, to the west of Melilla).

In the rest of The Mediterranean and the Atlantic the number of these specimens has deeply declined to worrying figures, 500 specimens in the whole world, so this is one of the most endangered species in the whole planet.

Breeding
The colonies of Monk seals are led by large male adults. They usually breed in hidden caves not to be disturbed during the ten-month pregnancy, giving birth to just one seal pup that depends entirely on her for three months.

Food and habits
They live an average of 20 years, reaching their sexual maturity when they are 4. They live peacefully in herds and they don’t usually go far away from the coast but to forage for food. They eat fish and molluscs, mainly during the night. Their habit to look for food in the fishermen’s nets has turned fishermen into their enemies, and they have been chasing seals for years, which is the main reason for their having become now an endangered species.

Present Distribution
At present the biggest colony of Monk seals, discovered in 1945, is found in the Cabo Blanco Peninsula (boundary between Mauritania and Western Sahara), with 250 specimens out of the 500 in the whole world, which makes the situation even more dangerous for this species in case the area were affected by any anomalies that could end with a great deal of them being located in the same area (for example, being attacked by toxins, as it already happened in 1977). There is another colony in Madeira.

The reasons we have mentioned above make the extinction of this species an imminent event which several projects of recovery are trying to stop.

In our next article we will talk about projects of reintroduction, promoted by the General Direction of Nature Conservation in the Ministry of Environment and the Regional Environment Vice-Ministry from the Canary Islands, which is trying to reintroduce this species in the Spanish fauna through The Island.

 FuerteCharter’s Team 

Los Sebadales: life in the sandy seabed

In our FuerteCharter daily routes, with trips from Corralejo, we go through an area of interest as a marine ecosystem: “Los Sebadales” in Corralejo.

Fuerteventura is the island in the archipelago having the largest number of fine golden sand beaches, and this is why it’s known as “La playa de Canarias”. These extensive sandy areas, partly submerged, give place to the meadows of marine phanerogams — similar to the grass— but unlike seaweed they have roots  (a great deal of them, so as to anchor to the sandy soil), stems and leaves.

Marine phanerogams need a salinity ranging from the 30% to the 37%, receiving the necessary light radiation to conduct photosynthesis (which is why they are located between the intertidal area and the 60m bellow the surface when the waters are clean and clear), be anchored to a substratum of quality and be surrounded by clear nutrient-rich waters.

Out of the 66 species of marine phanerogams spread all over the world, in The Canary Islands we have 4 of them, Cymodocea nodosa, popularly known as “seba”, standing out. Etymologically, Cimódoce was one of the sea nymphs in the Greek mythology, and nodosa makes reference to the presence of knots.

Distribution
The meadows of C.nodosa, “sebadales” or “manchones” are mainly located in the most protected bays in the East, South East, South and South West, in Fuerteventura as well as in the rest of the islands. They predominate in the oriental islands, which are older and further eroded, so they have the best sandy soil.

Due to the seasonality of the vegetative growth, “los sebadales” look different depending on the season of the year. The average peak values, regarding density of feet, height, number of leaves and coverage are reached in Spring and Summer, showing more foliage and a deep green colour.

Morphology and anatomy
“La seba” is an herbaceous perennial plant, with a rugged stem (rhizome) featuring knots from where leaves sprout upwards and the roots downwards. In the ancient times the stems were chewed, as they had a sweet flavour and they were called “reveriñas”.

The leaves are long (10-70 cm) and narrow (4mm), grouped in 2 or 4 beams, being able to reach the 10 beams.

The elongation of the rhizome parallel to the soil allows the plant to spread very quickly in the case of “la seba”, being able to form a meadow in just one year.

This would be a plagiotropic growth, but orthotropic or vertical growth can also take place, helping the meadows keep their leaves over the soil when, after a storm, a great deal of sediment has covered “los sebadales” at the bottom. Thanks to this kind of growth the leaves emerge again from the sedimentary surface.

Reproduction
Like other marine phanerogams, “la seba” can reproduce itself sexually, forming flowers, fruits and seeds,  or in an asexual way (cloning) by elongating their rhizomes and forming new beams with identical genetic information.

The importance of “los sebadales”
–  They provide food and shelter to many species, being a very rich habitat in biodiversity: seaweeds (up to 53 species), fish, cuttlefish, worms, seashells, crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms… sometimes they are even visited by our dear loggerhead turtle. They are also a laying site for many of these species, and they are considered as marine nurseries, where juvenile and restocking fish are bred.

–  They generate oxygen and a great deal of biomass thanks to the photosynthesis.

–  They play and important role in recycling nutrients: they catch and produce debris and excrete dissolved organic matter.

–  They cushion the impact of the swell and the ocean currents on the seabed, thus preventing coastal erosion as they keep the sediments thanks to their roots and rhizomes.

– They improve the quality of the water, increasing its water transparency and behaving like a biological indicator of the high degree of preservation of the coastline, that is, they ensure the best waters to bathe in.

“Los sebadales” are very sensitive plants and as we have already said they need particular environmental features in order to develop. When they change and they reach values that exceed their tolerance range the plants suffer from environmental stress; if the changes remain or intensify they can deteriorate and even die, which makes meadows disappear. When they disappear, so do the services they provide like productivity, biodiversity and preservation of the coastline. So it is up to us to preserve these environmental features as stable as possible.

With our trips from Corralejo we try to show our visitors the charms of this paradise and inform them about the fauna and flora that inhabit this biodiversity-rich corner of the planet.

FuerteCharter‘s Team.

-fuertecharter-trips from Corralejo 

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta)

The Loggerhead Turtle or Caretta caretta is one of the 7 species of sea turtles spreading in warm, tropical and subtropical water oceans in the world, and one of the exceptional visitors of our coasts which we sometimes are lucky to come across in our trips from Corralejo to the islet of Lobos.

Sea turtles are prehistoric reptiles which date back 200 million years according to   some fossil records, although the species we know nowadays just date back 10-60 million years. They outlived their neighbours, the big dinosaurs.
Their main characteristic, common to all the sea turtle species, is the presence of a bony shell, formed by a carapace — upper part— and a ventral shell —lower part— covering all the guts very effectively, leaving enough room to let the head, extremities and tail out. These huge sea reptiles are well adapted to living in the sea (some male specimens can spend hours under water), but they keep needing air to breath and land in the breeding season.
The Loggerhead turtle or Caretta Caretta, also known as “Caguama” turtle, got this name due to the large size of its head, as compared to the rest of sea turtles.

Distribution
They spend most of their life in the sea, in surface waters near the coast, around 13,3º and 28º.
Caretta caretta is the most cosmopolitan of all the sea turtles, and it’s spread all over the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea, with a highest representation in the Southeast Coast of Northern America (Florida is the site where you can find the highest number of nests, more than 67.000 per year) followed by the coast of the Arabian Peninsula in the Indian Ocean, and the Western Coast of Australia.
In the Canary Islands, it’s the most relevant species we have and find all through the year, being mainly abundant in Spring and Summer. And as we have already said, sometimes it’s an exceptional travel companion in our boat trips from Corralejo.

Family
Although there aren’t many data about sea turtles in general, as they are long-lived species with a very complex life-cycle, it’s known that Caretta caretta belongs to the Cheloniidae family, which dates back 40 million years. This family is shared by 5 more species: The Ridley turtle, The Olive Ridley turtle, The Hawksbill turtle, The Flatback sea turtle and the Green sea turtle; most of them are endangered species.

Morphology and identification
The Loggerhead turtle features the biggest hard shell of all the species (70-95cms.) Adult male specimens weigh among 80-200kgs, although there are records of 500kg specimens, and longer than 200cms.
It’s usually brown, with reddish shades, and a yellow hue is most common in edges and the ventral shell.
It features tear glands, behind the eyes, through which it gets rid of the excess salt they ingest when swallowing sea water. This makes it look, when it’s on earth, as if it were crying.
In young specimens it’s impossible to distinguish the sex through their external appearance. Adults feature some differences: males have a bigger head, longer tails and claws, shorter ventral shell and less curved carapace than females’.
They are omnivorous and they feed specially on marine invertebrates, but they also have strong jaws which allow them to crush crabs and molluscs.

Breeding
One characteristic of this species, which keeps it bound to the land, is the need of females to approach the coast in order to dig their nests and lay their eggs there. It’s a species with a low breeding rate, as females apart from reaching their sexual maturity between the 17 and 33 years (they live between 47 and 67 years) they only lay eggs every two or three years. Moreover, out of all the eggs that hatch very few of them become adults.
For this reason, apart from the fact that many nesting beaches have disappeared, that many specimens die entangled in fishing gears, strangled in trawls, caught in plastic waste…, the Loggerhead turtle is considered an endangered species.

Fuertecharter-trips from corralejo

“El Proyecto Tortuga” exists In Fuerteventura since the year 2009, trying to reintroduce in The Islands a species that disappeared from our coasts 300 years ago by translocating Loggerhead’s eggs from Cape Verd.
The beach in charge of taking in these nests is “La Playa de Cofete”, in the South of the Island. The first year more than 500 turtles were born, which proved the excellent conditions of this beach to carry out such a project.
In our next article we’ll discuss this project in detail, a project which tries to contribute to the preservation of this species at a global level

FuerteCharter’s Team.

The houseleek in Lobos

If you are one of our island’s visitors you have thousands of ways to find out this wonderful paradise, but if you are a nature lover and its exclusive eccentricities, you can’t miss our trips from Corralejo to the islet of Lobos to watch some endemic species you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the world.

The Natural Park in the islet of Lobos is a paradise of a great biodiversity, where we can find endless endemic species from the Canary Islands. But if there is one that defines them better than any other else this is the houseleek in Lobos, or “Siempreviva de Laguna”, whose scientific name is Limonium ovalifolium ssp Canariensis, which you can only find in this islet. Limonium ovalifolium ssp Canariensis is a little herbaceous plant with a lax open leaf rosette made of egg-shaped very dense ribbed hairless leaves featuring dense spikes, more than 10 per centimetre, with 3 to 5 white flowers, small conical calyx and a jazzy blue leaf blade.

When it grows it forms big grass-like prairies. It is hermaphroditic and it seems to be apomictic, that is, asexual, it reproduces from unfertilised seeds spread by the calyx itself, causing a parachute effect. It blooms in April and September, and it reproduces in May and October. It’s a halophila species (living in environments with a high presence of salts), growing on a clay layer facing East. It’s spread along the whole salt marsh (sand bank and lagoon areas) in the east coast of the islet, and it’s abundant in the wettest areas. Every four weeks approximately it stays flooded for some hours, sometimes even for days.

There are records that this species also existed in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, but at present, as we were saying, it only exists in the islet of Lobos, after having become extinct in these two islands. They take up approximately 18.000 m2, and they are estimated at around 103.512 specimens.

This endemic species is at risk of extinction. As its habitat is so reduced, any natural disaster or man intervention could bring it to an end immediately. For this reason, in the Natural Park of Lobos —known as ZEPA (special bird protection area), IBA (important area for birds) and LIC (common interest area)— there is surveillance and also restricted areas, as the simple fact of walking outside the paths could bring this species to an end. So, if you are one of our visitors, please, take special care with the instructions in the Natural Park.

-Fuertecharter-Corralejo trips 1

So as to avoid its becoming extinct, in “El Jardín Botánico Canario Viera y Clavijo” the experts cultivate this taxon in a controlled way, they keep the seeds and study their reproductive biology and genetic diversity so as to stop their extinction.

FuerteCharter‘s Team

We keep gathering as much information as possible about the Grey Pilot Whale that was found at Lobos coast last Monday.

With this purpose we talked to Marisa Tejedor, from SECAC (society for the study of cetaceans in the Canarian archipelago), who offered us a beautiful and reassuring speech about this topic.

Marisa says that although they are all wild guesses, as it’s very difficult to foretell why the whale is alone, we mustn’t panic as the whale is in a deep enough area to move (5mts) and even can leave whenever it chooses to; it is also in an octopus area, its favourite food, so it can feed and the conditions seem to be al-right.

DCIM107GOPRO

The whale has chosen to be there, maybe because it feels ill and it wants to reach the coast to spend its last days; maybe because it went astray and is trying to communicate, as the only anomalous datum is that it repeats very often the facing down movement, surfacing the tail, a characteristic movement of this species when trying to communicate. As she says, it is anomalous to an extent, but it’s difficult to foretell, and the rest of information they get daily about the evolution of the whale is reassuring up to now, they have even seen videos where the whale is playing with a bag.
It is clear that it is an adult specimen, and the target is to determine if this grey pilot whale belongs to this area; this can be found out thanks to some pictures they have taken of its dorsal fins, which in this species and in not young specimens dorsal fins are like finger prints, there aren’t two of them which look the same. With this they’ll be able to determine if this whale is living in the Canarian archipelago or in this area.

It’s difficult to foretell what will become of it; besides, these days the sea is not in good conditions to make further studies. Even so, the grey pilot whale is visited daily by the captains of the trip boats and by Environment, which get enough information to be reassured that the whale is al-right up to now.
Marisa Tejedor thanks the captains sailing in this area for safeguarding the distances stipulated by the law and for trying to protect the whale by warning all those who don’t keep them, which is very positive and a reason to be thankful for, as the most important of all is not to disturb the whale.
In conclusion, don’t panic, it could leave any time,  the daily news are reassuring, the grey pilot whale is in its habitat and home. They’ll keep researching and looking up information that will allow them to get to know better this specimen and its species.
There is a certain social concern lately, due to several news informing about dead cetaceans found  at different spots in the Canary Islands, many of them attributed to prospecting and military practices. Marisa tells us that these deaths are nothing to worry about, they are within the average rate, it happens every year, mainly at this time,  when the fish that emigrate are the food of these huge cetaceans: “Up to now everything is going its normal course, and these deaths are due to natural causes”; on the contrary, this means environmental diversity, as there are 30 different species out of the 86 cetacean species that exist, that is, a 40% ( a high presence of big predators, not usual in many areas), a very important datum and representative of the quality of our waters, which provide nutrients, meaning of life.
Another heartening datum regarding petroleum is that they are trying to have this area between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura recognised by Europe, once and for all,  as Community Interest Area, a hallmark which would grant us full protection.
Thanks, Marisa Tejedor, for making time for us in your busy schedule and for giving us this interesting speech. We’ll follow up the evolution of this representative of our sea, wishing it to find its pod soon because dreaming is a right that we all have…

From Fuertecharter we also thank and ask the captains of trip boats and the public in general to respect this whale, which is at home. We can enjoy its presence and beauty without disturbing it: we are living in its paradise.

 

 FuerteCharter team.

The Canary Islands, Marlin’s paradise

Marlins, also known in The Canary Islands as billfish, are the indisputable kings of big game fishing we were taking about in our previous article. These species reach our coasts while migrating, foraging, searching for breeding areas (they spawn in Summer and Autumn) and warm waters.
But they aren’t just fishers’ dreams, but many tourists, in their boat tours, have had the chance to enjoy the majesty of watching them jump on our waters surface.
As we promised, here is some information about the two Marlin species that, with the elegance that characterises them, visit our island.

The White Marlin
Tetrapturus Albidus, or Spikefish as many call them,  belong to the Istiophoridae family (tetrapturus genus).

boat tours
They are greenish-blue or greyish on their back, and their belly is white. Their body is striped.
Their average weight is 30kgs, and you can find up to 100kgs specimens although nowadays it’s becoming harder and harder to find huge specimens due to illegal and devastating fishing habits (catching young fish, not letting them grow up). Their average length is 200 cms, although you can find up to 300cms long specimens, and they reach maturity when they are around 130cms long.
They live in warm seas, deep waters, although they also approach the coast up to 20 mts deep. They don’t usually travel in school, but just in couple or alone. They are characterised by their nose bones on their upper jaw, which stretch in the shape of a long round sword, which favours their hydrodynamics.
They have a rigid tail in the shape of C, and a high rear fin, characteristic of this species.
They feed on squids and small fish, and they spawn in the high seas.
The White Marlin is one of the most popular fishes in big game fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Canary Islands we usually have them in Summer.

The Blue Marlin
Makaira nigricans or Atlantic Blue Marlin, also belongs to the Istiophoridae family (makaira genus).
boat tours
It’s known as one of the most elegant and beautiful in the Ocean, and also one of the biggest fishes.
In this species, the females are the biggest, reaching 4,5mts long and more than 800kg, although the average is about 3,5m and among 90 and 180kg the males. There are different opinions regarding the years they may come to live, but they are believed to live around 20 years. Their characteristics are similar to the white Marlin’s, with a high rear fin and a long and lethal upper jaw they attack their prey with, leaving them injured and shocked, moving backwards and then eating them.
Their back is cobalt blue,  and their belly is silvery white. They spend most of their time off-shore (pelagic species) and this is why they are known as blue water fish, following the ocean currents while migrating for hundreds and even thousands of miles, after tuna fish schools (tuna, dorado, mackerel…), on what they feed in warm and shallow waters, although they also plunge into the depths foraging cephalopods.
They are quick swimmers (up to 110km/h), swimming 50m in two seconds, a distance that men couldn’t swim in less than 29 seconds and one of the noblest species in the fisheries world as they are remarkably resilient to be caught and you can see them jump and swim swiftly trying to get ride of hooks, and they are often successful. Their meat is delicious and it is marketed in a professional way, mainly in Japan, where they live in the shape of sashimi, although in big game fishing it is usual to catch them and then let them go. However their preservation is in danger due to non sustainable fishing practices mainly in the Atlantic.

From Fuertecharter we recommend making boat tours around our coasts, mainly in the South, to everyone who may have the chance to do it and see if they are lucky to catch sight of one of this marvellous specimens living in our waters.

 FuerteCharter’s Team

Trips from Corralejo to find out the marine ecosystems in Fuerteventura

The sea area of the Biosphere Reserve in Fuerteventura has a great biological wealth, regarding species and marine ecosystems: intertidal puddles, submarine cliffs, brown seaweed beds, chalk pits, sand areas or sea grass meadows— those sandy seabed oasis of life—, all of them take part of the natural heritage of our dear Majorera island. In Fuertecharter we offer you trips from Corralejo, where we will go across some of these marine ecosystems.

Intertidal puddles
Some meters away from us, in the rocky tidal plains of Fuerteventura, we find these little samples of marine biodiversity. The tide is continuously making them emerge and submerge; this is why many of the species living there are especially adapted to the changes produced in their surrounding area.
In the emergent part of these rocky tidal plains we find the other side of a fascinating ecosystem where curlews and other coastal birds like turnstones, “chorlitejos” (charadrius) or “correlimos” (calidris) fly across the coast in order to forage. Limpets, “burgados” (osilinus spp), crabs and other invertebrates are the visible part of this ecosystem, together with the seaweeds that are exposed in the low tide and that cover the rocks in the intertidal puddles.

Brown seaweed beds
Along Fuerteventura coastline and mainly on the rocky bottoms we can find brown seaweed beds playing a crucial role as a main source of food production for the sea fauna.

Blanquizales”
“Los blanquizales” are the whitish rocky bottoms,  as a result of the presence of the long-spined urchin “Diadema africanum” (before “Diadema antillarum”). These herbivores feed on the seaweed on the rocks, leaving them devoid of vegetation and thus fostering the emergence of these particular ecosystems. In our trips from Corralejo to Lobos we go across what is known as “El bajón del Río”, an important area of “blanquizales” with geological formations in the shape of mushrooms, fully devoid of seaweed, which rise on a sandy bottom over 14 metres.

trips from corralejo

Sand Areas
Although apparently our sandy bottoms in the coastline may seem desert, a more careful look makes us find out that many organisms live either under or over the sand. Spiders, cone fish, starfish, cuttlefish, lizard fish, crabs… Then, in areas subjected to currents and where the sediment is more stable we find sand eels. The variety of species we can find in this ecosystem is really amazing. This is another marine ecosystem we find in our trips from Corralejo.

Sea grass meadows
These ocean meadows make up one of the most important marine ecosystems due to their great capacity to produce food, as well as to be used as breeding area for  many species of invertebrate fishes. These oasis of life on the sandy bottoms are environmental quality indicators in the coastline ecosystem and have a high ecological value we must preserve. Moreover they have other important roles, like the improvement of the water quality or the protection from coastal erosion. In our trips from Corralejo to Lobos we go across what is known as “los Sebadales de Corralejo”, declared a Special Conservation Area (ZEC) because of its ecological significance and for being a habitat of interest for the bottlenose dolphin “Tursiops truncatus” and the loggerhead turtle “Caretta caretta”.

Cliffs
Submarine cliffs are a meeting point among some species in the open sea and other species living near the coastline. The bicuda, amberjack and trumpet fish have their hunting reserves here. The moray eels, glass fish and other species living in dark environments find shelter in the crevices and caves at the rocks.

FuerteCharter Team

Discover the Cory’s Shearwater in our boat trips

In this adventure we have embarked, wanting to show the world the wonder of living in a paradise such as Fuerteventura, we feel compelled to talk about all those animal species that accompany us day after day in our boat trips around this area of the Atlantic.

In this occasion, to open this section about birds in Fuerteventura, we want to talk about the Cory’s Shearwater, which flies around our ships and makes its nest —to  breed— in one of our favourite tourist destinations, the island of Lobos.
Shearwaters are pelagic sea birds, which only leave the open sea in order to nest and breed. Their habitat, so, is the sea and they fly long distances to forage, picking up food from the sea surface while flying.

boat trips corys shearwater
© Xavier Martínez

The Cory’s Shearwater, typical of our islands, owes its name to its grey ash feathers. It flies and fishes in flocks, and it flies very well in strong winds. It’s able to cross the Atlantic and go back every year to the same breeding sites.
They are average size birds (40-45 cms), with long wings, and they can naturally live up to 30 years.

The Canry Islands, a breeding site.
Most part of the population of the Cory’s Shearwater is found in the Canary Islands, more than 30.000 couples, followed by the Balearic Islands, Chafarinas Islands and other Mediterranean islets.
They only come to land, the coast, in order to breed, and when they get to their nests, near their breeding area, they make very characteristic guttural and nasal sounds. In Fuerteventura it’s typical, in light-poor coastal areas, to hear the cawing of the Cory’s Shearwater coming near the coast, and they receive the answer from the ones that are already there. That way they announce their arrival in a very noisy way. Furthermore, when they come to land in order to breed, they wait for the night so as to easily go unnoticed.

Breeding
They approach our coasts in March, in flocks from 300 to 400 specimens, a moment of really intense social activity in sea-bird breeding colonies. For this purpose they approach mainly islands and islets, although they also approach coastal cliffs.  They use natural hollows (caves, nest-holes, cracks…), or they just dig them, using lush bushes and rocks as shelter. It’s copulation time and it will be in May that their eggs will be laid.

Offspring
They lay just one egg a year, which is never re-laid in case they lose it. Just half of the Cory’s Shearwaters starting to breed manage to fledge their offspring. The responsibility of egg incubation falls as much to the male as to the female bird, just one of them leaves the nest in order to bring food to their partner, which can stay from 3 to 9 days in the nest protecting the egg. The synchrony in the couple must be perfect, and so it must remain until the end of the breeding season.

boat trips corys shearwater
© Víctor Cubas

At the end of July the hatching takes place. The grey ash breeding chicken will never be alone in its nest-hole, one of its parents will always be beside it while the other goes foraging for the family. The adults feed their chicken with Iberian nases, squids and mackerels caught in the open sea and which they carry in their crop to the nest, already partially digested.
After being fed by their parents for 50 days, the chickens start to fly and try to get their own food on the surface of the huge ocean. They instinctively leave the coast in the middle of the night to make for the sea, though not all of them achieve their goal, as many of them are disorientated by light pollution.
For many years now, the coastal villages in Fuerteventura have been switching off their lights to help these young Cory’s Shearwaters so protected by their parents to reach the open sea.
In December, the breading season finishes, they start to migrate and it won’t be until February the following year that they will return to their nests to start breeding again. The young birds won’t go back to their birth places until reaching their sexual maturity, from two to nine years later. The birds that have been bred in the Atlantic Coast spread all over the coasts of Western Africa until South Africa.

If you are coming to Fuerteventura or you are one resident of this part of Macaronesia, don’t forget to listen to the Cory’s Shearwater’s cawing, look for them when travelling to Lobos with our boat trips, it’s one of those shows that nature gives us.

FuerteCharter Team