As a chef of the sea , I am fascinated by this medium that, let’s not forget, is exhaustive, unique and unrepeatable. I come from a region where many depend on fishing to live. Every day I see the critical evolution of the resource and today I write this letter because I want my political representatives to commit themselves to the defense of our ocean and it is urgent to tell people what is happening in Brussels.
Galician artisanal fishermen rebel against control of Brussels
Spain, along with other European countries, is negotiating this month a new regulation to control fishing. As Europe’s leading fishing nation, Spain is charged with leading the EU towards a new era of sustainable fishing that protects marine life, provides opportunities to the most deprived coastal areas and contributes to the implementation of the iconic European Green Deal .
Spain must advocate for transparency through the digitization and modernization of the fishing sector. Scientists must be able to accurately count the number of fish caught and verify compliance with current regulations. But today there are still legal loopholes that prevent the registration and control of catches for most of the EU fleet. How can the resource be managed like this? The only way is to hit the ground running, which is causing the depletion of our resource.
In the 21st century, and with all the information we have, this is simply unacceptable. Fishermen are forced to work harder to catch fewer fish, and their grandchildren may not even be able to fish in the future . The latest figures show, for example, that 83% of the Mediterranean fish stocks are overexploited.
In addition, many marine animals are being caught accidentally, such as turtles, seals, and seabirds. Scientists estimate that 7,500 dolphins died last winter from fishing nets in the Bay of Biscay. Everyone, including our country, looks the other way.
But this does not have to be the case: Spain can and must take a turn towards efficient management and transparency of fisheries. It can do this by supporting the consolidation of two key measures in the new fisheries control regulation: electronic monitoring (REM) and margin of tolerance (MOT).
Electronic vessel monitoring enables the collection of key and reliable information on fishing. It is the latest technology and the right one to cover the lack of data that currently makes legislators regulate in the dark. Many of our boats, like some tuna vessels, are already using it, but many others remain in limbo.
There are three fundamental aspects of this technology that Spain and the Council must take into account: electronic monitoring is key to avoid accidental capture of sensitive species; As such, this technology should be used across the entire fleet to the extent possible and not be limited to a small number of ships; electronic monitoring must use cameras and sensors to reliably capture data.
The margin of error (MOT) is useful for fishermen, since until now it has been difficult to accurately estimate the weight of the fish caught. However, thanks to new techniques, fishermen can now estimate catches with a high degree of precision. In short, fishermen do not need a greater margin of tolerance. Still, EU member states, including Spain, are trying to expand it. If the margin of tolerance were increased, it would jeopardize the international reputation of the EU and Spain as a leader in sustainable ocean governance.
I trust in the power of the sea to feed and nurture humanity. We Spaniards love fish and the amount of fish markets spread throughout the country is good proof of this. However, the Government must defend science and innovation with the same zeal and ambition that I put in serving marine plankton in my restaurant and in planting the Zostera marine cereal that we grow in the Bay of Cádiz.
Anyone working in the seafood industry needs to be able to tell their customers where that fish comes from, regardless of whether they are cooks, vendors or fishermen. Today we cannot say with certainty that the fish we sell does not come from a protected area, that it is not related to some illegal activity or that this boat causes the death of dolphins. We have all the tools we need to do it, but we need the political will to use them.
Minister Luis Planas has the opportunity to get Spain to lead the digitization of the EU fisheries sector by strongly defending the REM and the MOT in the Council negotiations this summer. As a country, we are the first interested in developing a thriving fishing industry that can offer us new opportunities for employment, research and innovation and that helps us to establish a positive alliance with the ocean.