Illegal fishing in Ibiza and Formentera

Published 27.05.2022


Illegal fishing in Ibiza and Formentera

The problem of illegal fishing in the Balearic Islands, the focus of a working day that will bring together the whole sector in Ibiza.

Marilles Foundation and IbizaPreservation are presenting a study this Friday that shows that illegal fishing and the illegal sale of fish products are widespread practices throughout the Balearic Islands and affect all sectors related to fishing and its commercialisation.   

This Friday at 18.00 hours a study will be presented – carried out during most of 2021 – led by Marilles Foundation with the participation of representatives of professional fishers, recreational fishers, underwater fishers, inspectors, restaurants, NGOs, scientists, and administrative bodies.

In total, more than 80 people were interviewed, including several poachers. The research was carried out under Chatham House Rules, according to which what is said is revealed, but not who said it, with the financial support of Mallorca Preservation and Blue Marine, as well as the collaboration of Menorca Preservation and IbizaPreservation.

Key findings of the research

  • Infringements are common in all areas related to fishing, including professional, recreational and underwater.
  • The demand for fresh fish by restaurants and individuals, as well as lack of consumer awareness, is one of the priorities for action.
  • The Balearics are no worse off than other regions in Spain. The Balearics have in place advanced regulations and professional inspection-surveillance.
  • Current resources are not sufficient to tackle this problem, neither can resources enforce compliance with existing regulations, both on land or at sea.
  • The vast majority of respondents are aware of cases of infringements by individuals, restaurants and hotels, but have never taken action.
  • There are many barriers –legal, social and economic– that hinder the investigation work of inspectors and law enforcement agencies.
  • Diversion of fish in professional fisheries is much more common in the small-scale fishing fleet than in the trawler fleet.
  • Most of the restaurants consulted have been offered illegal fish.
  • There are reports of:
    • Occasional cases of collusion between professional and recreational fishermen to "launder" fish.
    • Highly specialised poachers who can earn up to €3,000/month and for whom paying a possible fine is still worth the risk.
    • Subsistence recreational fishermen who sell their catch to supplement their wages and make ends meet.
    • Organised groups who sell fish illegally; they use warning systems to avoid being intercepted by fisheries inspectors.

Shared responsibility

The study brings to the table a problem that everyone knows about, but that no one talks about. The results of the research have been shared with representatives from all sectors, most of whom have validated the results and shared solutions.

"The challenge is to become more systematic and effective in verifying catches and batches to ensure that the fish we consume has been caught legally. The numbers coming from illegal fishing occur because there is often a lack of good governance, including effective management plans, efficient control frameworks, and adequate monitoring for sustainable exploitation of resources. That is why it is so important to look into these issues”, says Inma Saranova, director of Ibiza Preservation.

"Illegal fishing and the sale of fish products represents a haemorrhageof money and jobs for our economy that must be stopped urgently. It is a problem that undermines the professional and recreational fishing sector; it damages recreational opportunities for divers and bathers and the economic activity associated with them; and it destroys the image of a region that wants to be a model of sustainability. The administration must address this problem by providing more financial resources. Fishers must act firmly to curb illegalities within their sector. And restaurants and consumers must say no to illegal fish”, says Aniol Esteban, director of Marilles Foundation.

According to Antoni Font of Marilles Foundation: "Illegal fishing and poaching erode the efforts of all those sectors working to improve the state of the Balearic marine environment and ensure the sustainable management of fish stocks. There is a will to put an end to this problem, as a minority of people infringing damage the reputation of an entire sector and the image of a region that wants to and can be a leader in marine conservation."

Long-term project

Now, with the results of the research study and working with all the sectors involved, IbizaPreservation – together with Menorca Preservation, Mallorca Preservation, Marilles Foundation, Conservation Collective, and Blue Marine Foundation – will work on the design of a medium-term project to find solutions and put an end to illegal fishing in the Balearics. The diagnosis and the solutions proposed in this study form the basis of the work that these donor organisations will implement in 2022 in a coordinated and collaborative manner throughout the islands.


Some of the areas for action identified in the study include:

  • Research to better define the extent and impact of illegal fishing.
  • Public awareness campaign among consumers and restaurants to address the demand for illegal fish.
  • Working with the respective sectors to support those who want to curb illegal practices.
  • Designing certification mechanisms to guarantee the legality of the fish source and limit illegal sales.
  • Political work to secure more resources for inspection and surveillance, as well as improving the effectiveness of current resources

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