Illegal fishing off Costa del Sol is being targeted by the Guardia Civil. It is estimated that catching and selling immature anchovies, mackerel and other protected species, and then selling the catches to restaurants, can generate €2,500 a night for poachers.

The illegal practice is reported to be occurring in the sea off the city of Málaga where cruise ships have had encounters with small speedboats fishing in the dark. Such boats often escape swiftly from waters around the port, although 16 have been arrested recently, so dismantling three of the biggest poaching gangs in the area.

Seized in the operation were illegal fishing nets which do not allow young fish to escape, a practice specifically prohibited. In addition, the fish supplied to kitchens has not been through obligatory sanitary controls and catches seized by the authorities are usually destroyed as a result. In addition, illegal fishing clearly depletes the populations of various species.

Police say the poaching gangs, which usually have around ten members, are operating in a way similar to drugs gangs and are regarded equally as criminal organisations. The Guardia Civil has estimated that such poachers could be generating as much as €5,000 a month.