In 2006, trawling over coral and maerl beds was banned, but this aggressive type of fishing is still carried out with impunity.
The Minorca Channel is rich in these ecosystems and the government has just proposed its protection, so it is urgent that legislation be enforced.
Oceana asks the Spanish government to implement once and for all the Mediterranean Regulation, the European legislation which came into effect in 2006 and prohibited trawling over coral and maerl (or magrana, as the latter is commonly referred to in the Balearic Islands) ecosystems. According to the international marine conservation organisation, the government has official scientific information from the IEO and CSIC about the distribution of these habitats and has the legal obligation to act, even if it is eight years late. Not to do so, according to Oceana, would be bordering on perversion of justice.
“The case of the Minorca Channel is particularly worrying”, declares Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana, Europe. “Detailed charts exist made by the Instituto Español de Oceanografia (IEO) demonstrating the presence of coral and maerl and, in spite of that, trawlers continue fishing illegally over these beds with impunity. In addition, the government has just approved its protection within the UE’s Natura 2000 network. For this reason, it is doubly urgent to enforce the legislation and end trawling in the Minorca Channel.”
The ban on trawling over coral and maerl was established by the European Union and later incorporated into Spanish legislation in order to protect these vulnerable ecosystems from damage by trawling, a kind of fishing which is aggressive towards the seabed. It consists of dragging nets weighted down by heavy metal structures to keep them on the bottom of the sea, which places conservation of these habitats in serious risk.
The studies carried out by the IEO[i] to designate the Minorca Channel a Site of Community Importance show that pressure from trawling has increased in recent years because of growth in the fleet operating in this zone, which is completely incongruent and unacceptable.
“Trawlers have had 8 years to comply with and adapt to this legislation. It is surprising that they still ask to fish across prohibited areas. This is detrimental to artisan fishing and to the whole general public which has a right to enjoy a healthy sea,” says Marta Carreras, an Oceana marine biologist from Minorca.
Oceana assures that if this ban were enforced and trawling eliminated from the Minorca Channel, ecosystems essential for numerous commercial and non-commercial species would recover, which would favour development of professional artistsan fishing and encourage other economic activities such as diving in protected areas full of marine life.
[i] Moranta, J., Barberá, C., Druet, M., Zaragoza, N., (Editores). 2014. Caracterización ecológica de la
plataforma continental (50-100 m) del Canal de Menorca. Final report of the LIFE+ INDEMARES project
(LIFE07/NAT/E/000732). Instituto Español de Oceanografía-Centro Oceanográfico de Baleares
(Palma). Coordinación: Fundación Biodiversidad, Palma, 504 pp. The full report can be downloaded from this page: http://www.repositorio.ieo.es/e-ieo/handle/10508/1698