The Marshes Nature Park in Cantabria is 3,866 hectares of protected reserve that extend across many municipalities and the Ason River.
The Marshes Nature Park in Cantabria is 3,866 hectares of protected reserve that extend across many municipalities: Asón-Agüera, Trasmiera, Argoños, Bárcena de Cicero, Colindres, Escalante, Laredo, Limpias, Noja, Santoña and Voto. The reserve is formed by the Ason River estuary, in the Santoña and Laredo area, and the salt marshes of Joyel and Victoria. The Marshes Nature Reserve is located in the north of Spain, making it a key stop on the migratory routes of many species of birds, such as the grey heron, snow bunting and many belonging to the Anatidae bird family (ducks, geese, swans).
The nature reserve, located about 60 km (37 mi) from Santander, the capital of the Cantabria Autonomous Region in Spain, is an ideal stop for those interested in bird watching. The nature park requires special protection and attention since it is located near heavily populated, industrialized and touristic areas near the Bay of Biscay and many of the migrating birds are under threat of extinction.
In the 80s, the Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Marshes Nature Park was greatly threatened by the desiccation (intentional drying) of certain zones due to urban, agricultural and industrial purposes as well as the construction of a highway connecting Santoña with Argoños. These ecological threats were addressed by two environmental associations, SEO (Spanish Ornithological Society) and ARCA (Association for the Defense of Natural Resources of Cantabria), who denounced these activities before the Commission of European Committees, and filed a lawsuit. This led to the first environmental conviction in Spain in 1993 by the EU Tribunal Court in Luxemburg. However, one year before the sentence was handed down, in 1992, Spain declared the area as a protected nature reserve.
The marshes are home to oaks, scrubland, grasslands, dunes and beaches as well as 33 species of mammals including bobcat, deer and wild boar.
The estuaries that form the mouths of the rivers are ideal places for the breeding of certain species of fish for commercial purposes such as bass, bream, eel and flounder. However, they are especially important for anchovy and sardine canning industry which has a strong presence in the area.
Among the over 130 species of wild birds are: sandpipers, gulls, geese, redshanks, spoonbills, etc. There are two species of birds found in Cantabria that are difficult to spot in other areas of the Iberian Peninsula: the eider, a large sea duck; and the snow bunting, commonly found in the mountainous zones f northern Europe.
Bay of Biscay
The Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Marshes Nature Park feature landscapes that are typical of the Bay of Biscay region in Spain, more commonly referred to as the Cantabrian coastal area, spectacularly beautiful with mild year-round temperatures, abundant rain and mild winters and summers. All of these factors combine to create one of the largest green areas with stretches of forest that are home to a wide variety of plants and animals.