We want the politicians to come and get their feet wet

Posted by Fran G — 4 October 2012 at 10:49am - Comments

Luís comes from a family of fishermen. His great-grandfather started fishing in the tiny village of Cabo de Gata, near Almería, Spain, many years ago. Today, Luís is teaching is son the ropes. He's the first of the fifth generation of fishermen from this family.

Artisanal fishing makes up over 60% of all fishing here in Andalucía, the southern region of Spain. The methods they use are sustainable and cause little damage to the sea and to fish stocks: they know that if they catch everything today, there will be nothing left for them to catch tomorrow. So they look after their patch, they don't catch young fish, they don't damage the bottom of the sea and their discards are minimal. This allows fish stocks to replenish, ensuring there's plenty left for future generations.

Yet the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) favours the most powerful parts of the fishing industry, which have a much higher environmental impact. Often these are boats so big and powerful  that they can catch two to three times more fish than the ocean can handle. This doesn't only put the future of European fish stocks in serious jeopardy, but it also means that artisanal fishermen are increasingly struggling to make a living - like Julián, a pole-and-line fisherman from Hondarribia, the Basque Country.

Having used the same methods for fishing hake that his father and grandfather did, Julián is particularly concerned about the division of quotas. He feels quota should be equally distributed among everyone in the fishing industry; he lives for and with the sea and he doesn't want the powerful trawlers to end up with everything.

But it's not just about the distribution of fishing quota. The pollution of our seas also plays a big role in endangering the livelihood of traditional fishing, as Genoveva, a shellfish collector from A Pobra do Caramiñal, on Spain's Atlantic coast, explains.

It's rare to meet a woman in the male-dominated fishing industry, but Genoveva tells us that she learnt the skills she uses to collect shellfish in the shallow waters along the beaches from her own grandmother. She remembers that when she was little and used to accompany her grandmother to work, there was an abundance of shellfish to collect. Nowadays, however, with the increase in tourism and properties along the coasts, the rubbish mostly ends up in the sea, which has caused lasting damage to the shellfish stocks that she depends on for a living. She's concerned that not enough is being done to change this.

A common grievance among artisanal fishermen is that they don't get much opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns with the politicians who make the laws that directly affect them. They say they want politicians to come and get their feet wet and to learn about the day-to-day of artisanal fishing. That's why in Spain, as well as in the UK, Greenpeace continues to create opportunities for politicians to meet small scale fishermen, for them to hear their concerns and understand their lives.

It's important for them to do this now, because the CFP gets reformed only once a decade. This year, European politicians will negotiate and vote on changes to the CFP.This could be our only chance to ensure that the policy is fair for all fishermen, artisanal and otherwise, and to salvage a future with healthy, sustainably managed fish stocks

You can help make this a reality. Be a Fisherman's Friend and sign our petition to the UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon now.

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