Divers went straight back down to remove the net because it posed a risk to people and marine life / sur

Divers remove a 600-metre fishing net from the sea off Malaga city beach

Members of Equilibrio Marino rescued dozens of fish and crabs which had become trapped, but hundreds of others had died

IGNACIO LILLO Malaga

The fight against clandestine fishing and its lethal effects on marine life goes on. Two divers had to remove a fishing net which was 600 metres in size from the sea last week: it had been stretched illegally from the rocks opposite Los Baños del Carmen to El Morlaco.

Fernando Alarcón, the director of the NGO Equilibrio Marino, found the net while carrying out an inspection of the area as part of a scientific study into the presence of invasive Asian algae with Eleazar Pereiro, the head of the Scubazul diving centre. “We didn’t expect to find a net that big,” he said, afterwards.

Professional divers went down and had to spend more than two hours freeing fish and crabs which had been caught in the net, using knives to cut through the mesh without hurting them. Those still alive included small groupers, bass, bream, spider crabs, octupus and crabs, but unfortunately hundreds of others were dead.

Once they had been removed, the activists worked with Malaga council’s two ‘scum-skimmer’ boats which operate in the area, to remove the net from the water.

Pereiro said it had to be done urgently, with no time to plan ahead. “We couldn’t leave it there because it was dangerous for people, not just marine life. We grabbed a new bottle of oxygen and went straight down to get it out because there were already people swimming nearby. We couldn’t leave without sorting the situation out,” he explained.

Second in two weeks

This was the second incident of its type near Malaga city in just two weeks. At the end of May, a group of volunteer divers from Malaga university removed part of a large trammel net which had been left on the rocks at Los Baños del Carmen. Dozens of fish and shellfish had already died in it, but they were able to release many others who were still alive.

The divers from the university were collaborating with the Aula del Mar to draw up a census of the marine species in this area, when one of them spotted the net.

“At first we thought it was a short one, but no; we cut two stretches which were over 20 metres each and we had to leave a lot more of it down there because we were running out of air and had to come back up,” said Francisco Bautisto, the president of the group, who is looking for people to help him go back and remove what is left.

The university association estimated that there must still be 150 to 200 metres of that net remaining in the sea, and it appears to be a different one to that removed by Equilibrio Marino last week.