The combined fleets of the Gibraltar Squadron, the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Gibraltar Defence Police will have to be dry-docked after rare limpets were found on the vessels.
Dozens of endangered Patella ferruginea were found attached to the hulls below there waterline during a routine inspection.
They are believed to have come from a colony of limpets that was relocated by the Gibraltar Government from the site of the new power station to near Rosia Bay.
“It’s remarkable, but we believe they crawled along the seabed to the marine base inside the harbour,” said Professor S. Hupon, a Dutch limpet expert who is coordinating with the government’s Department of the Environment on an international research project.
“These vessels will have to dry-docked so that the limpets can be carefully removed one by one.”
“Each limpet will then be monitored in an aquarium for 72 hours to make sure they are not traumatised by the experience.”
“Once they are given a clean bill of health by the vet, we will label them and attach miniature tracking devices before returning them to the wild.”
The relocation project several years ago cost the government £30,000 but dry-docking all the vessels will run in excess of that.
The price will be further increased by the urgency given that the vessels will not be able to patrol British Gibraltar territorial waters until the limpets are removed.
The Patella ferruginea limpet is one of the most emblematic species for marine environment conservation in the Mediterranean given that it is perhaps the species most at risk of extinction.
The shells of Patella ferruginea are one of the most characteristic elements of shell mounds from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period throughout the western Mediterranean basin, indicating that it has been consumed by humans since prehistoric times.
Work on the vessels will start in April.
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