Goodbye to the skewered hake? The EU will meet on Tuesday with the sector to 'close' 87 fishing grounds

The Spanish fishing sector has the date of next Tuesday, July 26, marked in red on the calendar. That day, Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius will hold a technical meeting with representatives of European fishing fleets, member states with interests in this area (including Spain), NGOs and scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea ( ICES) to finalize the 'closure' of 87 trawl and bottom longline fishing areas in fishing grounds in France, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. What will affect the activity of more than 300 Spanish fishing vessels, they estimate from the European Bottom Fishing Alliance (EBFA, in English) chaired by the Spanish Iván López. "In Ireland, for example, the Burela and Celeiro (Galicia) bottom longline fleet obtains 75% of the skewer hake catches in these areas", points out the general secretary of Cepesca Javier Garat. On the other hand, he has also warned that "if marine gas oil prices continue like this, and the aid does not arrive, some fleet will have to stop".

All these issues were discussed in the traditional meeting with the media, in which the 'Report on the Spanish Fishing Sector 2022' prepared annually by Cepesca (Spanish Fisheries Confederation) was presented. Garat, who also chairs the European employers' association Euopêche, has shown his confidence that Brussels is sensitive to the socioeconomic study that Spain will present with data on the economic impact of this measure for the fleet and the entire economic fabric around the ports: «Spain is going to present exact data on the footprint of bottom gear, where the vulnerable marine ecosystems are located and the areas to be protected", he advanced. He has also criticized the cartographic methods used by the European Commission to determine the fishing zones to be protected. For his part, López (EBFA) recalled that the European Commission had the obligation to carry out this type of study and was more skeptical about Brussels introducing changes: «We are not here to play games: I do not think that the whole of the proposal change," he concluded.

Fishing diesel, 'out of control'

On the possibility that the moorings of the fleet will be repeated, due to the economic consequences derived from the conflict in Ukraine, the general secretary of Cepesca Javier Garat has recalled that fishing diesel already accounts for more than 60% of the operating costs and its price remains high. Only in 2021 its value increased by 44.4%. Specifically, according to industry estimates, the price has gone from an average of 0.306 euros in the last quarter of 2020 to exceed 1.1 euros this year. What is added to the increase in logistics costs, energy, raw materials, etc... In this sense, he welcomed the fact that the fishing fleet that fuel is supplied outside of Spain through national companies. “If the prices of marine gas oil continue like this, and the aid does not arrive, some fleet will have to stop”, acknowledged Garat, who has also lamented the greater fiscal pressure and the rise in social contributions.

All this, in a sector that with 'blood, sweat and tears', has managed to navigate the troubled waters of the pandemic. Specifically, they estimate in the Cepesca report, the total value of production in 2020 has amounted to 2,043 million euros, with a growth of almost 10%. While imports and exports fell in 2020, they have recovered in 2021, exceeding those of previous years. Last year alone, 1,168 tons were exported for a value of 4,701 million euros. Growth compared to the previous year of 6.6% and 17.1%, respectively.

In this sense, Garat has pointed to a greater number of captures last year compared to the previous year and added that "the economic value will be similar to or greater than that of 2020 since people want to spend and enjoy life." Something that, in his opinion, also works so far this year, although everything is subject to the "uncertainty" surrounding the conflict in Ukraine.

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