EYMD – What can fishermen do besides fishing?

Cobertura do European Youth Event 2014 (Estrasburgo, 9 a 11 de maio) no âmbito do European Youth Media Days.

What can fishermen do besides fishing?

Interview with Alessandra Nasti (Italian Centre for Research and Studies of Fishery – CIRSPE) about alternatives for fishermen.

Aline Flor and Kait Bolongaro

Image and editing: Aline Flor

“How do we eat a whale? One piece at a time”

The programmed collapse” approached the problem of overfishing and its environmental and economic implications. With 43 youth in the audience, the debate moderated by EYP board member Sebastian Olenyi centered in the solutions for a pressing issue: how to prevent our seas from running out of fish?

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), implemented in the 1970’s, went through a reform in 2013, when the Council and the Parliament reached an agreement. Overfishing was one of the major problems that needed an urgent solution – for instance, around 80% of Mediterranean fish stocks and 47% of Atlantic ones are overfished in the EU, giving no time for fishery population to recover.

Justine Maillot, the Greenpeace EU Unit advisor for Oceans and Fisheries, praised the progress reached by the new CFP, underlining the involvement of civil society. Now, the challenge rests upon how to recover our fish stocks without sacrificing the economy.

“How do we eat a whale? One piece at a time.” Mike Walker, communication manager at Pew Charitable Trust, used the metaphor to recall that overfishing is not over yet and the process must be completed one step at a time, although people have now a “tool to ensure that it is over soon”, after decades of misfit communitarian legislation. However, the civil society has to keep using “that tool to cut up the whale and end overfishing”.

Scientist Alessandra Nasti, from the Italian Centre for Research and Studies of Fisheries (CIRSPE), pointed the 3 different actors that influence the sustainability of fishing: the fishermen, who have to develop better practices to better fulfill the rules; the Governments, who should legislate considering both the social implications to and the economic aspects of the market functioning; and the consumers, who should choose their fishery products more carefully, demanding clear information about it. The researcher considered that sustainable fishing is possible, but we must also think about alternatives for the fishermen.

Olle Schmidt, liberal member of the European Parliament and part of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, was careful to remind about the political and economical sides of the matter. However, he pointed out that much has been done and more “changes might occur”. International agreements were also mentioned as a real challenge, since the European fishermen compete with other less regulated countries.

Aline Flor


What can we do to prevent running out of fish?

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), implemented in the 1970’s, went through a reform in 2013, when the Council and the Parliament reached an agreement. Overfishing was one of the major problems that needed an urgent solution, since we are fishing at a pace that gives no time for fishery population to recover.

We talked to Mike Walker, from Pew Charitable Trust, to shed some light on what can be our part in ending overfishing.

Can consumers fight overfishing?

Ideally, although consumers have responsibility and an opportunity to influence the sustainability of fish that’s provided in both supermarket and restaurants, this fish should come from sustainable stocks. It is actually a failure of the decision-making process of the EU that consumers are put in the position that they have to make choices about sustainability. As a citizen, you have a right to fish stocks – European fish stocks, in many cases – that are managed responsibly, and the responsibility for ensuring the fish stocks are managed with decision makers.

What does that responsible management look like?

It means decision makers making decisions such that fish stocks are not overexploited. It means making decisions that are based on as robust science as possible in terms of not setting fishing limit which exceed what is believed to be a safe level of fishing. For 30 years, the EU has had a failure of responsible decision making in terms of fish stocks, and now we have a situation where the European fish stocks are not as healthy as they could or should be.

Can the new policy amend that?

The decision-making has improved in the last couple of years and this new policy is a lot more robust and has the potential to see an end to EU overfishing. However, a piece of paper, a policy, legislation isn’t going to stop overfishing. What’s going to stop overfishing is the implementation of that piece of paper, and that’s the challenge and the opportunity of the next Parliament, of the next 5 years, and the 28 ministers with responsibility for fisheries. We have a target of 2015 for ending EU overfishing. If that’s not possible, we have a target of 2020. So that gives us 5 and a half years at maximum and there’s every reason and every opportunity to end overfishing long before 2020 in the EU.

Is this goal likely to be achieved?

That is a question for all of these participants. Decision makers make decisions based in many things, but one thing they definitely consider is what do my voters want. So what do the participants here want? The next five years aren’t just about some environmental dream of more fish. It’s also an economic and social matter of ensuring that there’s sustainability for fishing communities and for the fishing sector and for the fishing industry, for not just 5 or 10 years, but for a long, long time to come.

How can young people get involved?

Ask your decision makers to end overfishing. Ask ministers to set fishing limits that don’t exceed scientific advice. Every December, ask ministers to allow and enable citizens to participate in the formulation of their member-states’ position on fishing limits. Every December ministers meet to decide on fishing limits, but for months before that they are meeting and consulting and they need to broad that consultation to make sure that all the stakeholders, including young people and all types of groups, have an opportunity to contribute to that, because ultimately European fish belong to Europeans, and that’s so important that the decision makers empower individuals and young people to contribute to that. Likewise the European Parliament is going to have a significant opportunity to oversee the implementation of this new Common Fisheries Policy.

Aline Flor and Kait Bolongaro

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