Angling rally, Sunday 5 June - 300,000 protesters took to the streets of Madrid

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07 Jun

About 300,000 people took to the streets of Madrid Sunday to put pressure on the Spanish decision makers to change an 'inflexible' piece of invasive alien species legislation.

This legislation will see some non-native fish species highly sought by anglers (carp, black bass, pike, cat fish and more) to be eradicated from all Spanish waters. Any of these fish species caught has to be killed. Eradication programmes will be put in place, too. Two lakes have been poisoned already to kill all carps in them. 

Carps have been in Spanish waters for more than 1,000 years. As in many other European countries carp was introduced as a source for fresh food. The Spanish rigid legislation on non-native species and the even more rigid implementation of it, raises some important questions, which are relevant to other countries and EU legislation as well. For example: How far back in time shall we go to make a proper distinction between native vs. non-native species (the baseline)? 

An EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species took effect 1 January 2015. The legislation is based on a list of species “of Union Concern”. None of the fish species, that Spain has deemed invasive (to be eradicated) are on that list. National invasive species lists can differ much causing strange situations. For example, black bass is deemed an invasive species by Spain but not by Portugal. So a black bass in one of the cross-bordering rivers is non-invasive when it swims on the Portuguese side but invasive when it moves into Spanish water.

Another important question is: When is a non-native species to be considered 'invasive' and thereby a justified target for eradication? In Europe 85-90% of non-native fish, other animals and plants are doing no harm (not invasive). Many non-native fish species in our waters are there because they serve as a food source, or are important species for angling, without doing harm to the water environment or biodiversity: 

- "Some 12 000 species in the environment of the Union and in other European countries are alien, of which roughly 10 to 15 % are estimated to be invasive."
(Cutting from REGULATION (EU) No 1143/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 "on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species")

- José Luis Bruna, president of the Spanish Federation of Fishing and Casting insists that angling "has always coexisted with the environment" and that the aforementioned invasive species [carp, rainbow trout, pike and black bass] "are naturalized."

In Spain, and all over Europe, rivers and lakes have been dramatically altered during the last century. Today very few rivers are untouched by hydropower and dam installations, industry and agriculture as well as fish farming. These activities have wiped out native fish species in some places, and put severe limits on the number of native fish in others. Eradication of non-native invasive fish species is an aim to conserve or reintroduce native fish species. However, our rivers have to be prepared for that change, to be able to sustain these native species, which were there long time ago but cannot thrive there under the present circumstances. Otherwise a lot of fish will be killed to no use. Man-made obstacles have to be removed and/or workable fish passes put in place before wiping out such fish species, which today do good to recreational angling and its dependant businesses and jobs, and to society at large with little to no impact on the native flora and fauna, which may be, or not be there today.


Video clips and articles:

Invasive Species Aren’t Always Unwanted”; New York Times, 29 Feb 2016

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