Thursday, January 27

Eel fishing in the Mar Menor is limited to 25 tons per season

A specimen of European eel, photographed in the Mar Menor.

A specimen of European eel, photographed in the Mar Menor.

The European eel that inhabits the Mar Menor is a threatened species in critical hazard On which weigh protection measures that come from the European Union to recover its population and also to control its trade. The species was already subject to periods of gradual closure in the Mar Menor that have been widening over the last few years. Now, the Department of Water, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Environment will establish a fixed schedule and a catch limit per season of 25 tonnes in the salty lagoon, which accounts for 50% of the catches in the entire Mediterranean Sea.

To do this, it will soon publish an order where it will set the fishing campaign in two and a half months a year: from December 1 to January 15 and from March 1 to March 31, avoiding the months in which the migration period begins to reproduce. Exceeding the catch limit by the fishermen of the Cofradía de San Pedro will automatically mean the end of the campaign, and if not, there will be sanctions, according to the draft of the order to which this wording has had access.

The computation of captures will be made from the notes of the first sale issued by the Brotherhood, which will be able to market the specimens that are in the auction even if the catch quota has been exceeded, although they cannot be in captivity. If it were fished outside the Mar Menor and in the interior waters of the Region, it would also count within the established season, adding to the total number of tons allowed.

In addition, the Ministry’s Fisheries Service may declare the “precautionary closure of the eel fishery when 90% of global consumption of the catch limit is reached.” When the limit of 25 tons per campaign has been reached, both the Ministry of Fisheries will be notified and it will be published on the Ministry’s website. Europe had established a 30% reduction in fishing effort more than ten years ago.

A depleted population

The population of the European eel in the Mar Menor has been reduced, especially after the successive episodes of anoxia in 2019 and this year. The biological monitoring of the species by the scientific commission of the lagoon continues to be classified as ‘very scarce’ their presence in the Mar Menor, being one of the fish most affected by the mass die-off. Their situation has been so difficult that a protocol was even established for the extraction of specimens in good condition if there were cases of lack of oxygen in the water.

The Ministry alleges that “certain exceptional circumstances, such as ecological variations in the lagoon, may modify the biology of the species as well as its exposure to fishing gear. This may cause specific increases in catches that may compromise compliance with the obligations derived from the agreements and community norms “.

The fishermen, according to the measure

The Fishermen’s Association of San Pedro has been registering an average of catches in the last campaigns of between 30 and 25 tons of eels. The president of the fishermen, José Blaya, believes the measure is necessary to respond to the demands of the European community and adds that the order has been negotiated jointly with the sector. The latest prices recorded left the sale of a kilo of eel at eight euros, two more than last year. The measure seeks to promote the reproduction of the species.

The catches in the lagoon last year were 65% of all Spain

The eel fishery in the Region of Murcia is an artisanal fishery limited to the Mar Menor. The importance of the catches of this species in the lagoon in the Mar Menor with respect to the total national catches is very high, since it has meant the 32.8% of the catches of Spain in the period 2006 to 2020, “which implies the need to carry out a sustainable management of this resource that guarantees the escape of a sufficient number of specimens for their subsequent reproduction,” says the Ministry in the order that will limit captures.

Last year, 38,464 kilos of this species were caught in the Mar Menor, compared to the catches in all the seas of Spain that were 58,893 kilos. This means that fishing in the lagoon accounted for 65% of total national extractions, according to data from the Ministry of Fisheries. In 2019, respecting the closed periods, fewer kilos were caught in the Mar Menor, remaining at 21 tons compared to the 56 national tons. The European Union obliges to allow 40% of the population to escape to the sea.

Since 2006, the highest number of catches was made last year, followed by others such as 2013 with 34.1 tonnes or a year later with 33.5 tonnes. The worst fields have been centered in the years 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2018, with a total of fish caught that did not exceed 20 tons.

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