Maritime Police officers have seized more than 30 illegal fishing traps that had been set to catch eels, shrimp and fish in the Salgados lagoon, according to a report in Sul Informaçao.
Officers discovered nearly 40 kilos of dead eels, 20 turtles, numerous frogs, a dead bird and dozens of kilos of shrimp and crayfish, most of which were dead.
Surviving creatures were released back into the lagoon and the police are to keep a close eye on the area to see if anyone returns to the traps that had been below the water until exposed due to a drop in water level.
Concerned algarvedailynews readers noticed the drop in the water level in the lower section of the lagoon from Saturday and contacted the newsdesk. The fishing traps became visible as the water receded.
Algarve resident, nature lover and international journalist Len Port explained that the drop in water level has been reduced at the request of SPEA, Portugal's bird protection organisation, as it was too high in the pre-breeding season for water birds and sediment had built up that needed cleaning through, "this is a normal process."
A spokesman from SPEA in Lisbon concurred, "the opening of the sand bar will always be needed out of the breeding season to clean water and sediment. The water in the upper part of the lagoon will be used to help refill the lower part when the sand bar is closed."
Lagoa dos Salgados is the lagoon and wetland area near Praia Grande on the Silves/Albufeira council border, next to the agricultural zone that is destined to become a controversial €230 milion hotel and golf course development named Praia Grande.
The development is the target of an international campaign to keep the area as it is, a wildlife haven and one of special interest to nature and bird lovers worldwide.
The discovery of world’s largest colony of Linaria Algarviana, a Protected Rare Plant may help save the Salgados wildlife area from the developers Finalgarve but the Portuguese Government has not yet said whether it will fulfill its responsibility to protect the largest colony of one of the rarest plants in the world.
Confirmation of the species existence was made by the Portuguese Botanical Society after government approval for the mega-tourist project had been given.
The botanical survey was undertaken at the request of Friends of Salgados,* a collection of concerned individuals, businesses and NGOs.
An on-line petition to protect the site was started in 2012, has gathered nearly 34,000 signatures and now is recognised as Portugal’s second largest ever environmental protest. The largest was in 1979 to save the Iberian Lynx in the Malcata Hills with 60,000 signatures, the lynx died.
The Salgados lagoon has been remodelled by Águas do Algarve and divided into two parts, the northern section providing a stable water level and island breeding sites, and the southern area where the traps were found which can still be drained by digging through the sandbank to the sea.
The opening of the sandbank was though now to be unnecessary after the extensive work by the water company's contractors had removed the danger of flooding the Herdade dos Salgados golf course.
According to the Sul Informaçao report, the Police discovered also that a gate giving entry to the new dyke that divides the lagoon had had its padlock cut. A boat was discovered hidden in the reeds and was removed by police officers.
The cash value of the haul was significant and would have been hawked around local restaurants and sold to individuals.
The collateral damage is high with tortoises and birds dying in the quest for shrimp and eels and locals say that this illegal activity is not unusual in the area but never before has it been discovered on such a scale.
The 'Friends of Salgados, group includes the following organisations:
A Rocha, Aldeia, Algarve123, www.algarvedailynews.com, Almargem, Birding in Portugal, Birdwatching Algarve, LPN, Portugal Resident, ProActiveTur, Quercus, SPEA
For the Sul Informaçao article in Portuguese, see: