Over the last week fishermen across Europe have staged vocal protests against policies they believe put the future of the industry and their way of life in jeopardy.
This applies in particular to the European Commission’s Action Plan to protect marine ecosystems that aims to close off 30% of our seas to demersal fisheries, and it’s a key reason why fishermen have gathered on quaysides across Europe and sounded foghorns to make sure their point is heard.
The call to make the industry’s voices heard went out from the European Bottom Fishing Alliance (EBFA) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), supported by Europêche, EAPO and Cogeca, culminating in a day of protest.
‘Instead of celebrating the historical unity of the peoples of Europe and social prosperity, fishers sounded the horns of their vessels, as a call of distress, to voice that the fishing fleet is gradually disappearing,’ an EBFA representative commented.
‘The sector expects that this joint call is seriously taken by EU policymakers and stop the very policies that are triggering this crisis. The goal is sending a clear message to the EU authorities that bottom fishing is on the brink of collapse. If the European Commission action plan and the Nature Restoration Law is implemented as proposed, Europe risks 25% of its seafood production, 7000 vessels and 20,000 fishermen and women.’
According to the industry federations, enormous progress has been made in the last 20 years on the protection of the marine environment and the recovery of fish stocks.
Practically 100% of the landings from EU-managed stocks in the Atlantic are sustainable, greenhouse emissions have been cut by 40%, thousands of square kilometres have already been closed to bottom fishing and 28% of the fishing fleet has disappeared due to restrictions and fishing capacity adjustments.
‘In the Western Mediterranean, the activity of bottom trawlers (days at sea) has been reduced by 30% in the last four years, which in addition to further area closures, is driving most businesses below their breakeven point. But in the eyes of the Commission, this is not good enough,’ EBFA’s spokesperson said.
‘Fishers and their communities have spoken loud and clear. We cannot further tolerate policies from the European Commission that put our way of life and future generations in danger. EU polices are bringing the sector to its knees.’
The federations warn that we risk having only seafood products from third countries, whose environmental and social standards are almost always lower than those of the EU.
‘It’s time for the EU to rethink where it wants the seafood to come from,’ EBFA’s representative said.
‘The sector would like to remind the Commissioner of his mandate to maintain the profitability of the fleet and to maximise food production in the EU, as clearly stated in the founding treaties of the EU.’