Brussels wants to cut hake and weighs more limitations in the Mediterranean


Madrid

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The Spanish fishing fleet holds its breath before the next Council of EU Fisheries Ministers which will be held on December 13 and 14 and which, being the last of the year, will determine the fishing quotas for 2022. In this context, the European Commission has put on the table the proposal of an 18% cut in hake catches from the Cantabrian Sea for next year and, as they fear from the sector, it would be considering a further reduction in fishing days for the Mediterranean trawl fleet. In addition, next month, new reductions and technical measures related to the economic and social sustainability of the fleet come into force. Something that the Commissioner of Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius already announced in his visit to Spain in September.

In this sense, the fishing organizations of Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, Andalusia and the Balearic Islands They have requested an urgent meeting with the General Secretariat for Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as well as the councilors of the branch of the autonomous communities of the Mediterranean. They are also studying to carry out a new strike of the trawler fleet during the days of the Council and have already announced that they will move to Brussels next month. At stake, they have ensured from the sector, the activity of about 600 vessels and the more than 17,000 direct and indirect jobs that are generated.

“To the limit”

In this sense, the Secretary General of Cepesca Javier Garat has highlighted that “Mediterranean fishermen are on the edge” and asks that no additional measures be adopted, pending the results of the investigations of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) and the CSIC. The representative of the fishing association recalled that «In the last two years about 20% the number of fishing days», as well as carried out closures of two months and “reduced its fishing areas to protect the juveniles of certain spices such as hake.”

Regarding merluaz, from the Ministry of Agriculture, they have recalled that it is “a first, initial proposal, and that it should now be debated at a technical level” and argued that “Despite the lack of clear scientific data since last year regarding the biological situation of hake ”in Brussels they have shown their preference for the cut. All this, when the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES, for its acronym in English) has “downgraded” the category of its assessment without considering the large amount of data available on this species and the «Efforts» of the Spanish scientific institutes when proposing alternative evaluation methods.

Hake is joined by the proposal for cuts in species such as mackerel, which is fished between the south of Finisterre and the Gulf of Cádiz, and whose catches the European Commission wants to cut by 16% “when the ICES recommendation for this species has been 12% for several years. Nor do other species such as sole or pollock, on which Agriculture has indicated that the scientific evaluations “are not complete” and there is a lack of sufficient data. By contrast, after several years, Brussels has proposed that increase the catch level of monkfish and roosters from the Cantabrian national fishing ground that can be fished in 2022 and the Norway lobster fishery is reopened in this same fishing ground after five years of closure.

Community “tug of war”

Garat (Cepesca) has regretted that “the European Commission goes further than even scientific recommendations and applies a precautionary approach due to the alleged lack of data.” The representative of the fishing companies has pointed to a growth in the southern hake population and asks that “the social and economic consequences for a sector that has given everything in the pandemic. In any case, the also president of the European employers’ association ‘Europêche’ has pointed out that “there will be a tug of war in the negotiation in which their cuts are normally smoothed out » and asks to find a balance between environmental, social and economic aspects.

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