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Criticism as Spain gives licenses to harvest coral on Catalan coast

Madrid says permission aims to help fishermen “survive,” while some parties and activists warn that 90% of reserves are in danger


30 April 2018 03:16 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Coral reefs are the ultimate casus belli between Spain and Catalonia. Madrid has just granted twelve licenses to harvest such marine invertebrates, which has sparked some criticism among Catalan political parties and activists. The Spanish agriculture ministry has given permission to twelve individuals to harvest coral in some parts of the Barcelona coast and the Costa Brava (from Arenys de Mar to Begur) on the grounds that it is helping fishermen “survive.” This, though, seems to clash with a scientific report ordered by the Catalan government last year stating that in Catalonia “only 10% of the [coral] population are in good state of preservation.”

Indeed, the pro-independence Esquerra party and the unionist Socialists have already denounced the permissions given to harvest coral. The criticism has been joined by the PACMA party, focused on animal rights and welfare. Esquerra officials in the area involved announced on Monday “social and institutional measures” to prevent the harvest from taking place. “This measure is against the marine biodiversity preservation and coast protection policies,” says the party in a statement.


  • "This measure is against the marine biodiversity preservation and coast protection policies"

    Esquerra party

The Catalan Socialists are also willing to stop this measure. “This is a really unfortunate decision which is not due to any rational or environment-friendly criteria, the [Spanish] ministry is legalizing the coral extinction,” said a Socialist MP in the Spanish Congress. “It is shameful that they not only pay attention to experts, but also increase licences,” he added. Both the Socialists and Esquerra have launched initiatives the Spanish lower and upper chambers to denounce this situation. The PACMA activists also urge Madrid to “immediately” remove such licenses on the grounds that this policy promotes “plundering biodiversity.”

Worrying report

All three parties mention a report made last year by some experts of several international research centers led by the Spanish public CSIC agency. Their conclusions were clear: 90% of the red coral (Corallium rubrum) reserves in Catalonia are in danger.

Catalan veto for licenses

Because of that, the Catalan administration –before being seized by Madrid– decided not to grant licenses for at least 10 years starting in 2018 between Begur all the way north to the French border. It only affected the Catalan interior waters, the only ones for which the Catalan government had powers –exterior waters are handled by Madrid.

Now Spain is granting licenses for exterior waters from Begur to Arenys de Mar, some kilometers in the south. This area is right next to the one where harvesting such marine species is forbidden. Some Esquerra sources claim that until now the Spanish authorities has always applied the same policy for their waters that the Catalan administration applies for theirs.


  • Image of a fisherman harvesting coral in the Catalan waters (by Joan Cerdà)

  • Image of a fisherman harvesting coral in the Catalan waters (by Joan Cerdà)