The seabed and cliffs of Punta de la Mona are considered Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) but activities such as recreational fishing are still permitted. However, experts have warned of the danger to the ecosystem and say that valuable corals have broken off or become trapped by nets and fishing lines.
Environmental organisations and zoologists from the University of Granada (UGR) have started projects to repopulate the colonies, but they fear that this is not enough and have asked the Andalusian government to do more to protect the area.
At the end of October last year, a draft proposal regulating various activities in Punta de La Mona was published in the Junta de Andalucía’s official bulletin, which, if successful, will prohibit recreational fishing, despite protests among the local fishing community.
The Zoology department of the UGR has defended the proposal by saying, "Having a natural area in a good state of conservation should be a source of pride and would give prestige to our coastline, as well as benefiting fishing resources and biodiversity."
Recreational or sport fishing and anchors from boats damage the biodiversity of the Punta de la Mona cliffs, which are located between Almuñécar and La Herradura in Granada province. The experts warn that if the deterioration continues it will become very difficult for the ecosystems to recover.
The enclave is one of the few areas of the Andalusian coastline where the rocky seabed is 50 metres deep, which allows the presence of endangered corals such as the candelabra coral, or 'Dendrophyllia ramea', together with the 'ferruginous limpet' and other endangered species.
Spearfishing is another activity that takes place in the area, but is controversial with some arguing that it has a positive effect on conservation. However, according to the UGR experts, it has led to the virtual disappearance of large predators, such as groupers, which include sea bass, from the coast of Granada.
They also denounce poaching, which leads to fish being sold at lower prices, causing unfair competition for professional fishermen. The Zoology department has also proposed monitoring the impact of diving in the area.
Along with Punta de la Mona, three other special conservation areas exist on the Granada coast: the cliffs of Maro-Cerro Gordo, the cliffs and seabed of Tesorillo-Salobreña, the cliffs and seabed of Calahonda-Castell de Ferro and the Peñones de San Cristóbal.
All of them add up to some 16 kilometres of the total 70 kilometres of Granada's coast, which means that they account for approximately 22 per cent of the coastline. However, currently only Maro-Cerro Gordo has a management plan in force which regulates activities such as fishing and diving.