• ‘Anoxia suffered leads to alarming downturn from the 65 boats and 220 families that live from the fish of the Mar Menor’

Concerns are afoot after Chief patron of the Brotherhood of San Pedro del Pinatar José Blaya revealed the decrease in fish hauls by San Pedro fishermen.

“Catches have only reached two boxes of crab, a box of magre and a unit of sea bass,” said Blaya, at a quiet Lo Pagán fish market.

Blaya believes the anoxia suffered by the salty lagoon in 2021 has lead to the alarming downturn from the 65 boats and 220 families that live from the fish of the Mar Menor. 12 employees work at the fish market.

“The fish have gone to the Mediterranean to look for the oxygen that the Mar Menor does not have.

“It is like as if they were ‘afraid’,” said one fisherman.

The president of the Association of Naturalists of the Southeast (ANSE), Pedro García, said: “It is not fear, but anoxia – eutrophication and the poor environmental conditions of the lagoon.

“The fish that suffered the most from anoxia were the smaller ones – that served as food for the larger species.

“Therefore, once the little food available in the lagoon and the lack of oxygen, the larger fish will have left the Mar Menor in search of food.”

Chief patron Blaya added: “Last month we had an income of €10,500, opening the Brotherhood costs between €30,000 to €35,000 per month. “This has calculated the largest pattern, which makes the operation of the centre little viable.”

The fishermen of the Mar Menor held meetings with Minister of Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera, who visited them in February, at the Spanish Oceanographic Institute, just 50 metres from Lo Pagán fish market.

Ribera referred them to the Ministry of Agriculture, which has powers in inland waters. The major employer has held meetings with the Directorate General for Fisheries but there are no solutions: “We just have to wait and the fish will come back,” said a spokesperson.

Fishermen are awaiting the Sea Bream and Sea Bass, characteristic species of the Mar Menor, to return in early spring: “The fish from the Mar Menor has not suffered any loss in its quality”, said Blaya.

“What comes out of the Mar Menor has very good sales, very good output and very good acceptance by the consumers. “The boats only rely on the fish to return to their home in the salty lagoon,” he added.

ANSE have aired their disappointment, saying: “It is due to the lack of a more precise evaluation of the effects of the anoxias of 2019 and 2021 and how they have been able to affect fisheries.”

The Ministry of Water, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and the Environment has decreed a temporary ban for the exercise of bottom trawling in inland waters of the Region of Murcia from February 14, to March 27, and from November 1-30, according to the Official Gazette of the Region of Murcia (BORM).

It is hoped the measure will contribute to the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy and ensure the exploitation of living marine biological resources restores and maintains the populations of species caught above the levels that can reproduce the maximum yield.

The proposal was sent to the Fishermen’s Guilds of the Region of Murcia and the Federation, who gave their consent.

The Order recalls that the days of inactivity not included in the temporary closure and for which there are no fishing opportunities derived from limitations in fish production, due to the application of Regulation (EU) 1022/2019, which establishes a multi-annual plan for demersal fishing in the western Mediterranean, may be the subject of an employment regulation file.

Caption: Chief patron of the Brotherhood of San Pedro del Pinatar José Blaya: Decrease in fish hauls by San Pedro fishermen.