Conservationists appeal to Zapatero to make Spain a leader in the restoration of marine ecosystems, due to the influence of the Spanish fishing fleet in Europe and the world’s oceans.
Subsidies for fisheries should be completely eliminated, except for those used for dismantling vessels and occupational conversion of fishermen.
Oceana, the international marine research and conservation organisation, has just received a report published in Science magazine written by a group of prestigious international scientists supporting the opinions defended by the organisation for years; opinions that have frequently been scorned by shipowners and fisheries administrations alike, in a clear attempt to defend their own interests.
The study published in Science, extensively reproduced in today’s press, warns that if the current model of fisheries exploitation continues, all stocks of fish will collapse in 40 years. This is, however, already the current situation for 38% of commercial stocks around the world, the abundance of which has declined more than 90%. Seven percent of the stocks are in even worse conditions, commercially extinct due to the elimination of up to 100% of populations. Practically all other fisheries are being overexploited, already having lost more than 50% of their biomass and quickly approaching collapse.
“From now on, it will be difficult for the fishing industry and for the politicians serving this industry to scorn our opinions, describing them as pessimistic or not scientifically thorough, declares Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “The most prestigious fisheries researchers in the world coincide with the thesis that Oceana has been publicly manifesting for many years. And that is not surprising, because our opinions are not improvised, but based on the research and investigation carried out by scientists who work independently of industrial and political pressures.”
The Oceana spokesperson adds that the study published in Science does not only warn about the need to reduce the pressure exerted on fish stocks and, in general, on marine biodiversity. The scientists also emphasise the systematic destruction of habitats that, together with the other factors mentioned, is affecting the ocean’s capacity to maintain water quality, the increase in algae blooms and other invasive species, and –coupled with the climate changes- the frequent coastal inundations.
According to Pastor, “After the publication of this scientific data, confirming the results of hundreds of smaller research projects undertaken by various experts, the European Union, the United States and the Asian countries, those responsible for the present situation of world fisheries, should react. Fishing fleets should be resized and reduced to at least 50%, and destructive fishing methods such as trawling and drift netting should be definitively eliminated from the world’s oceans.”
According to Oceana, the governments of developed countries should avoid making the same mistakes with the fisheries as they did with the climate change. After ignoring the scientists’ and conservationists’ warnings for three decades, the governments are now discovering that there is a global warming crisis of huge dimensions, presenting very serious economic and social consequences which could have been avoided if adequate measures would have been taken when needed.
Oceana especially calls attention to the Spanish government. According to Pastor, “Spain has a huge responsibility concerning fisheries. This country’s fleet represents half of the entire European Union fleet. Furthermore, Spanish shipowners possess many fishing vessels flying non-Spanish and even non-EU flags. The Spanish fishing lobby has an enormous capability to influence the positions this country conveys to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers.”
And adds: “In the majority of cases, Spain is responsible for the fact that Europe has not taken advanced measures to avoid the collapse of fisheries and to take action for the restoration of fish stocks. Spanish shipowners are often implicated in pirate fishing activities and their vessels are taken into custody for illegal fishing activities. It is about time that Rodriguez Zapatero’s government reconsiders this attitude and transforms Spain into a country that champions the international recovery of fish stocks and the conversion of fishing activities towards a truly sustainable fishery, and promotes the creation of extensive marine reserves allowing the recovery of biodiversity and increasing productivity.”
Oceana affirms that the fisheries issue needs to be addressed decisively today, similarly as it was imperative to address the industrial conversion in Spain and other surrounding countries in the past. According to conservationists, the fishing fleets need to be drastically reduced, and destructive fishing methods eliminated.
According to the conservationists, one of the most important tools is the elimination of subsidies given to the fishing industry used to deplete life in the oceans –subsidies that come out of the pockets of all citizens. Recently, it was estimated that worldwide fisheries subsidies add up to 30 billion Dollars annually, representing one-third of the value of the total catch.
Oceana affirms that subsidies for the construction, renovation or improvement of vessels should be eliminated, as well as those corresponding to fuel. According to Pastor, “The only subsidies that should be granted are those that correspond to the non-fraudulent dismantling of vessels, to the occupational conversion of fishermen and to the aid for traditional fisheries that have been proven to be sustainable.”