Footprint Blog

Catch 22!


In the debate about sustainable fishing, fishermen seem to have been left by the wayside much like hounds in Labour’s hunting ‘fait accompli’, as mere facilitators!

In the same way we talk about the post-confict ‘repatriation’ of soldiers, should we be talking about re-educating fishermen and lending them support to adapt their businesses to these changing and challenging times.

It is widely argued that the Madrid based International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna is primarily interested in protecting the fishing industries of its 45 member countries rather than driving the maintenance of fish stocks at sustainable levels. Yet the EU has agreed the catches must be cut by 30% by 2010. The message is confused.

We would be interested to know how Brussels is helping fishermen whilst enforcing significant reduction of their revenues in a climate of rising costs. It is a different story for the large commercial trawlers but for small businesses these directives are devastating, manifested by the recent fisherman’s riots in France.

There is no doubt that fishermen have been vilified, rightly or wrongly. According to The Guardian when this years tuna season ends next week, France’s fleet of tuna boats will have fished less than its quota off 3000 tonnes (although superseded in previous years) and a huge operation including the French Navy will be constantly monitoring boats’ positions, conveying a message of total control and transparency.

But the question begs whether the EU should be helping fisherman, by means of effective grants, to introduce alternative methods and stalking sustainable stocks. Is enlightenment, culminating in environmentally friendly practices, really that difficult to encourage and eventually achieve? With a helping hand rather than endless red tape, we suspect not!

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