Spanish catfish cull on the cards

The River Ebro’s prized catfish and carp stocks could soon be subjected to a contentious culling programme, Angling Times can reveal.

Rumours are rife among local guiding services that the Spanish government is planning to deploy over 100km of nets throughout the upper reaches of the river around La Granja d’Escarp with the aim of removing all species deemed ‘non-indigenous’ to the waterway.

Among the stretches allegedly earmarked for the controversial ‘fisheries management’ plan are Tortosa and Amposta.

Although these two areas aren’t as popular as the reaches around Mequinenza an Caspe, locals are convinced that any nettings would have a negative effect on catfish populations throughout the length of the river.

“We are extremely concerned about this issue because it’s just not a rumour that’s come from one person ¬ everyone involved in fishing the Ebro is talking about it,” said Garry Allen, owner of Regency Angling Tours in Mequinenza.

“Netting the upper part of the river would seriously affect catch returns because these big fish are very active and can travel great distances.

“Fishing is a massive industry in this part of Spain and if the authorities have started doing it without first consulting local businesses like us, then it’s nothing short of a disgrace.”

Another Mequinenza-based firm, CatMaster Tours, has guided thousands of UK anglers over the past decade, and owner Colin Bunn is also anxious to get to the bottom of the rumours.

“We have all the local people we know with their ears to the ground trying to find out exactly what’s going on.

“If the government is planning such an initiative, we will fight it tooth and nail,” he said.

It’s not just the resident guiding services that have voiced deep concerns.

Back in the UK, the Catfish Conservation Group’s internet forum went into meltdown this week.

“There are some very worried anglers out there at the moment,” said Simon Clarke, chairman of the CCG.

“I’ve spoken to two or three people that are very clued up and well-connected with the Ebro fishing scene and they have verified the rumours.

“It’s vital that the sport is pro-active and pulls together at times like this ¬ Spanish catfishing is hugely popular with visiting
UK anglers.”

At the time of going to press, Angling Times was still waiting for an official response from the Spanish authorities.