“We have an incredible adventure for the true monster seekers.” The Extreme Fishing Territory business has made the capture of protected marine species in Lanzarote a tourist attraction. For 150 euros, visitors to this island Biosphere Reserve they could get on a boat, fish for hammerhead sharks, mantle sharks and rays, bring them to shore and take photos for social media. Two complaints have led the Civil Guard to investigate the facts and the Island Council to open a file and submit it to the Government of the Canary Islands and the Environment Prosecutor’s Office.
The association for environmental conservation Latitud Azul and the association for the development of comprehensive climate actions ADACIS have denounced Extreme Fishing Territory, owned by Óscar Benéitez Pérez from Zamora, for the commercialization of species from recreational fishing, the use of vehicles on the beaches where the fishing activity was carried out, to advocate the fishing of protected species whose capture is not allowed through dissemination on social networks and for using drones during the activity.
This writing has tried to know the version of the organizer of these excursions, but has not responded to calls and messages. Many of the images he posted on his social networks were deleted after his practices reached the authorities. However, the whistleblowers were able to collect dozens of photos before they were removed. In them you can see customers posing day and night with the animals and even the business owner biting a shark fin.
This business has had such a reach that even a publication in an English media published the case of an Irish family that moved to Lanzarote to live the experience of catching angelsharks, an endangered species.
The Nature Protection Service (Seprona) of the Civil Guard has opened an investigation and is in the phase of collecting evidence to be able to carry out legal actions through criminal proceedings. According to the complaints to which this newsroom has had access, this offer has been taking place since at least 2020. In the Facebook posts in which he promotes his service, Benéitez assures that, in addition to Lanzarote, he offers “fishing adventures” in Ceuta, Gibraltar, South Africa, Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique.
The comments published by some clients on the Trip Advisor portal reveal that the accused has come to ask for 150 euros for about 10 hours of “extreme fishing”. The excursions were both day and night. “You have the chance to catch a real bug and give yourself the fight of your life”, “I managed to catch a big manta ray”, say some users.
“Enjoy a different and incredible fishing adventure along the coasts and beaches that surround the island! Extraordinary diversity of native species and visitors. Transportation and fishing equipment provided, and our guide will be with you all the time”, promotes the business. After the photos, it is not yet known what happened to the animals. However, the experts consulted agree that even if they were returned to their habitats, capturing them and then bringing them to the surface could cause irreversible damage.
The Canary Islands Fishing Law prohibits attracting fish with animals or substances that contain blood or toxic products, using protected species as lure and using unauthorized gear. In addition, it establishes that accidentally caught species whose fishing is prohibited must be returned to the sea immediately. “As can be seen in the photos, the catches, in the event that they were accidental, have not been immediately returned to the sea, but have been used to take photographs with customers,” reads one of the complaints. “Fishing can be considered to be directed and the catches are of the target species, not accidental,” the document adds.
Blue shark, mantelinas and mongrels
Latitud Azul’s complaint lists the species identified in the photos and their degree of protection. The silky shark is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In this same list is also the hammerhead shark. Order ARM/1647/2009 that regulates the fishing of highly migratory species “prohibits the capture, possession on board, landing or commercialization” of these types of sharks, as well as the blue shark.
One of the marine species that is most repeated in the images is the mantelina, listed as endangered on the IUCN red list. The same happens with the beaked ray. Critically endangered is the bishop. For its part, the black mongrel is listed as threatened. Sources from the Ministry of Ecological Transition of the Government of the Canary Islands assure that the Agency for the Protection of the Natural Environment and the Biodiversity Service are collaborating with Seprona, which opened the relevant investigation.
“These types of images cannot be promoting this type of activity as a tourist activity. They are damaging the greatest patrimony that the Islands have, biodiversity”, asserts Alicia Herrera Ulibarri, biologist, researcher and co-founder of Latitud Azul.
Herrera regrets that these practices are taking place that are destroying the projects promoted by the University for the conservation of angelsharks, rays and mantelinas. “This activity has no place in the Canary Islands. The regulations should be much tougher with vulnerable and endangered species”, says the expert.
For his part, the naturalist and environmental advisor Ezequiel Navío, as a representative of the ADACIS association, stresses that “this type of event must be pursued relentlessly and with the utmost forcefulness by the public administrations of the Canary Islands, by the agents of surveillance, by the scientific community, social groups and the citizens themselves”.
“In the face of an unprecedented environmental crisis, with the world’s seas and oceans contaminated by plastics and chemical products that annihilate marine species and with global overfishing decimating fishing grounds, we cannot allow in any way that there are madmen who deliberately they are mistreating threatened and endangered species”, concludes Navío.