A yellow buoy indicates the presence of a scuba diver in the Jugadora creek, located within the nature reserve of Cap de Creus. When the rural agents' boat gets there, two fins emerge to the surface. The scuba diver has caught two fish, but he has run too many risks by entering into the nature reserve where this kind of fishing is explicitly forbidden. The rural agents make him get out of the water, force him to give them all of his fishing equipment and confiscate his fish. Then, they report him for having fished in a nature reserve.
He will have to pay a fine that can amount to 500 euros. Aside from being fined, the scuba diver will not be able to fish for a while, as he must give all of his equipment (two rifles, a knife, a mask, the buoy, the fins and the wet suit) to the rural agents.
Situations like this are at the top of the report list of the sea patrol. Their sphere of action is centred mainly along the coastline of the nature reserves of Cap de Creus and the Illes Medes. During summertime, the rural agents constantly comb the coast of these protected areas in order to catch poachers and eradicate all the situations that pose a threat to natural environments.
\u201CThe main infringements we find are those of people who fish in forbidden areas or during the closed season\u201D, says one of the agents, Jordi Corona. \u201CFor instance, there are people who catch sea urchins with diving bottles, when they must be fished without oxygen tanks, or people who carry out rifle fishing or rod fishing in protected spaces\u201D, he explains.
Aside from these interventions, rural agents also take action from a boat. For instance, they ask for fishing licenses for those who throw fishing lines from their boats and control the number of memberships from diving centres.
Rural agents guard the protected areas of the Costa Brava not only by boat, but also from the air, thanks to a helicopter which is very useful, for instance, in following poachers and establishing the exact coordinates of the places in which illegal fishermen are.
Coral poaching, the main priority
One of the main priorities of the sea patrol is control of poachers. This year, for instance, they have already taken action in 30 cases in order to stop illegal fishermen. But the ones that worry them the most are those who take coral from the sea, because even though many efforts have been made to stop them, they still poach in the Empordà coast.
\u201CThey are always the same ones; they are people who do not have a license but who extract the coral from time to time\u201D, explains the head of the rural agents of the Girona province, Ignasi Dalmases. \u201CIt is not easy to follow them, as they do everything they can to avoid the agents\u201D, he adds.
This year a total of four coral poachers have been caught so far. They were all in the same boat and they were discovered at the end of April next to the Messina Island in Cap de Creus. Aside from not having a license, they extracted red coral during the closed season.
To extract red coral without a license is a very serious act, and it comes with a strong administrative sanction. Moreover, rural agents take these cases to environmental prosecutors. \u201CIn Catalonia, there are only ten licenses to extract coral, so the poachers are always the same. But even though they are pursued and reported, something is wrong with the system, as they keep doing it\u201D, regrets Jordi Corona.
The sea patrol, however, does not end in the sea. Rural agents also go to the creeks to make sure tourists do not camp there or light fires in open air or the beaches. The most guarded places are, for instance, the Gallardera creek in Cap de Creus, where many boats anchor.
Aside from asking the tourists not to cook in open air, the rural agents also control the throwing away of waste. If they see mattresses or abandoned equipment, they take pictures of it and send the images to the nature reserve for them to remove of the items.