THE Civil Guard has managed to free 265 kilos of octopus caught in illegal traps owned by three poachers on the coast of Santoña.
Operation Santolagarro began this summer when residents raised the alarm that crooks were illegally capturing octopuses in the bay of Santoña and Laredo.
Police say whatever the criminals caught was sold on to nearby restaurants and residents.
According to the Civil Guard, the criminals were using huge pots ranging between 25 and 40 meters deep in the water of the bay.
Octopuses would retreat into the pots for shelter before shady fishermen would capture the creatures ‘under the darkness of the night hours’.
This type of fishing is prohibited after 6pm in Cantabria.
As the crooks were operating in the middle of the night, cops said ‘their detection was extraordinarily difficult’.
The criminals were eventually caught after police launched a sting operation, placing agents on Rio Nervion patrol boat nearby overnight.
Once officers spotted the suspicious fishing vessel at midnight carrying out the illegal fishing activity they were able to swoop in.
Cops carried out a search onboard the vessel and uncovered around twenty octopus traps and more than a dozen octopods of different sizes onboard.
Immediately the agents ordered the skipper of the ship to continue raising the line in order to remove the gear and return the serving octopuses to the water.
After further search efforts, the officers discovered a total of 567 traps in the bay of Santoña and Laredo and some 265 kilos of octopus were returned to the sea alive after police intervention.
Three men have been taken into police custody, facing serious fines for fishing in inland waters at prohibited times and for fishing with illegal equipment in the Cantabrian Sea. They face fines of up to € 60,000 each.
In addition, the skipper of the boat and one of his family members could also be fined up to €120,000 for not having an authorised crew member on board and for working without documentation.