Management Plan for the Mar Menor lagoon

The so-called “Mar Menor” is a unique ecosystem in the Mediterranean coast that, in spite of numerous protection categories, continues to be very vulnerable to environmental impacts.  Artisan fishing plays an important role as socio-economic activity, but the degradation of the ecosystem jeopardises the sustainability of its resources. Using the management tool, the community of San Pedro de Pinatar is developing a management plan to recover the fishery in the Mar Menor, and to improve the environmental health of the lagoon.

Mar Menor lagoon, Murcia



Artisan fishing is of great importance for the communities of the Mar Menor, especially for San Pedro de Pinatar and some towns south of the lagoon, such as Los Nietos. The main gear used is the trawl, a fixed gear that captures fish after channelling them through perpendicular nets on the coast towards a spiral.  The advantage of this gear is that fish remain alive until they are harvested. The most common commercial species are sea bream, sea bass, European eel, sole, prawns, mullets and sand steenbras or striped seabream.

The Mar Menor is the largest coastal lagoon in Spain, with an area of approximately 135 sq. Kms. and a maximum depth of 7m. It is a natural treasure that has several protection categories, including that of a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI), Site of Community Importance (SCI), Zone of Special Protection for Birds (ZSPB) and Protected Natural Space.



Due to almost no planning and a very poor environmental stewardship, the Mar Menor has undergone changes in the habitat, a high degree of pollution and overfishing, dramatically modifying the environmental conditions of the lagoon. This deterioration has been worsened in recent years mainly due to a large amount of agrochemical products resulting from intensive irrigation farming in Cartagena, which have multiplied the eutrophication and caused Spain’s largest coastal lagoon to be on the brink of collapse.

From different sectors, the South-Eastern Naturalist Association (Asociación Naturalista del Sureste or ANSE), with the support of WWF, is developing a work plan together with the fishers´ association (Cofradía) of San Pedro de Pinatar, in order to assess and quantify the professional and recreational fishing activities and be able to further a fishing management plan that will be integrated in the future into an Integral Management Strategy of the Mar Menor.  This plan seeks to recover and preserve the natural resources of the lagoon and to align the various socio-economic activities carried out in the Mar Menor.



Stemming from a deteriorated and conflictive relationship between the artisan fishers´ associations and the administration, the fishers allege a lack of planning and management of the Mar Menor, as well as lack of participation by the sector in the decision-making process. The accelerated deterioration of the Mar Menor lagoon in recent years has forced artisan fishers to seek solutions, establishing a dialogue and work relationship with NGOs, and being open to participatory joint management processes that ensure the recovery and sustainability of fishing.

During 2015 and 2016, there began a joint work plan between the fishers and ANSE, prioritising the contribution of information in order to characterise the fishing activities and obtain a diagnosis of the status of the fishing resources of the Mar Menor lagoon.  Artisan fishers have provided samples on board the boats and at the fish market of Lo Pagan, compiling biological and fishing data for the appraisal of the harvests by species, by-catches or interactions with protected species, among other factors. They have also worked in interviews with fishers to gather information about the evolution of the fishing gear, the fish stock, the main problems of the sector, their opinion about certain protection measures, etc.

By mid-2016, ANSE and WWF conducted an education campaign on board the solar catamaran and classic sailboat of both organizations, propitiating a rapprochement of the communities in the Mar Menor, causing a change of attitude and asserting more social demands in order to restore the lagoon’s environmental balance. Currently, there is more cohesion among the various socio-economic sectors, including tourism, agriculture, and fishing, exerting pressure to establish a participatory Forum or Social Council that works in the preparation of an integral management plan for the Mar Menor, among other measures.

In spite of the efforts made, the annulment of the elections for the Leader of the Fishers´ Association of San Pedro de Pinatar by the Autonomous Community in 2016, brought about judicial actions that were not settled until the end of the year. These events caused a lack of an internal management body, which management was assumed by an interim manager, with an acting Leader that assumed the responsibilities during some months of 2016 and the beginning of 2017.  These events caused a lack of stability and stagnation of the initiative to promote and prepare the integral fishing management plan, although it probably increased the internal cohesion among fishers, making them more aware of their demands. At the end of 2016, the Court ruled against the Autonomous Community, wherefore in 2017 there will be a new council and a leader, and this will facilitate the actions contemplated in the project.

During 2017, assessments of the artisan fisheries of the Mar Menor have been completed.  All the information gathered up to now has been made available jointly with professional fishers by means of meetings and workshops. Additionally, specific activities are being carried out to increase the awareness of fishers and other stakeholders regarding the most threatened commercial species.



The preliminary diagnosis of the fishing status in the lagoon will be submitted to the administration responsible for the management of fisheries in the Mar Menor and will seek tools that enable driving the changes needed to further the Fishing Management Plan for the Mar Menor.




The serious environmental crisis and its consequences on the standard of living and the economy of the zone, including that of the professional fishers, have enhanced the cooperation among the social sectors of the Mar Menor.

The joint work among representatives has made a number of joint demands in favour of the environmental recovery of the Mar Menor possible.

Although the acceptance of the demands in favour of the Mar Menor has reached all the administrative instances and has prompted proposals from almost all political organizations, the solutions are being applied very slowly, and many of the most pressing problems are still not adequately addressed.

Used tools

Used tools

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