The fishing industry up in arms: "One in two boats is in danger"

Fishermen protest against European regulations forcing them to reduce trawl catches by 40%

2 min
Image of the fishermen's demonstration this Friday at Blandas

GironaThe fishing sector is sending out a distress signal. The new European law which imposes a 40% reduction in trawl catches by 2025 has set Catalan and Valencian fleets on the warpath. Fishermen warn that the regulation endangers the continuity of one in two boats, according to calculations by the president of the Catalan federation of guilds, Antoni Abad. "We cannot keep boats that can only go out 120, 150 or 180 days a year, depending on the type of boat. We must to be allowed to work and we must all be allowed to do so equally", claims the fisherman, who also warns that if their demands are not met they will have to organise "more protest actions" because the entire fishing sector "is in danger".

The vast majority of vessels in the Catalan and Valencian fleets have not gone out to fish this Friday: "The stop has been massive, although for us not working means not getting paid anything," stressed Abad. The fishermen have chosen this date because today a meeting in Brussels to discuss the new European law affecting the fisheries sector is scheduled.

The president of the federation argues that they have been working for a long time with measures to fish in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way. "And we have proposed protecting 18 areas of the Catalan coastline totalling 400 square kilometres to preserve them from fishing and conserve them," says Abad, who asks the Spanish and European administrations to give them more time to adapt to the regulations and to listen to them before applying them. "It's not okay that because of their immobility, Spain and Europe, who have never done anything, now want to fix the sea in a year. We have done our homework and we have proposed solutions. We do not want to do nothing, but we want to do it differently," stressed the president of the federation of fishermen.

The law gives a margin of 5 years - until 2025 - to reduce 40% of trawl catches, but in practice it will have to be done in three and a half years, because it starts counting from 2020. These deadlines are believed by both fishermen and the Generalitat to be "impossible to meet without completely sacrificing the fishing sector," as director general of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Sergi Tudela warned on Thursday during an event held in Roses with the Catalan Minister for Climate Action Teresa Jordà to support the claims of fishermen.

Protests in ports and demonstration in Blanes

Each fishermen's guild has decided how they will make their rejection of the new European law visible. Some have organised rallies in ports; others, such as the Blanes guild, have called a demonstration at sea. Fifteen boats have set sail from the port behind a banner against the European regulation, and made their way to the centre of the bay.

According to Antoni Abad, throughout the Mediterranean most ports "have stopped all day" because "everyone is clear that if trawling falls the whole sector falters". This type of fishing represents "70% of everything that is caught" in the Mediterranean, according to Abad. In Catalonia there are 218 trawlers that, towing a bag made out of netting at sea, catch species such as rock octopus, shrimp, sole, hake, galera or prawn.

"In total there are 2,500 fishermen in Catalonia and most of us are family businesses. It is a very important economic engine," stressed the president of the federation. "We are very necessary for a healthy and balanced diet," added the spokesman for the fishermen of Blanes, Eusebi Esgleas, who also recalled that without trawling, "there would be no fish markets nor ports".