Last week I had the pleasure of re visiting Dénia, a small vibrant town in the Mediterranean coast of Spain. When the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise toured Europe in support of low impact fishers in 2013, Dénia was one of many stops and the welcome overwhelming. With a new and improved European Common Fisheries Policy in place I was happy to see how low impact fishers have continued fighting for a fair share of the fishing opportunities and are increasingly supported in doing so. The voice of these fishers, who offer an alternative solution to destructive, industrial fishing, is finally getting louder and louder.
Last week Dénia hosted a meeting of the European project EUFIN aiming to improve fishing in coastal communities with attendants from Italy, Portugal, Serbia and Greece. Many ideas came up; marine reserves, labelling, promotion of tourism related to the traditional fishing culture and so on. During the weekend the “Fish and Sea” fair took place and locals came to learn more about different fishing techniques and have a taste of fish dishes made by local chefs. In a town famous for its cuisine that means a tasty dish is guaranteed!
All this was quite encouraging, but what made me most happy was the involvement of a so many other sectors other than the fishing industry itself, like for instance scientists, members of local governments and tourism bodies. Sustainable fishing is not only about boats, nets and fish. It’s about local economy, culture and science. Low impact fishers respect the sea, support marine reserves and provide their towns with a resource important to both livelihood and identity. In towns like Dénia they are increasingly aware of it and see a great potential in putting sustainable fishing at the heart of the town and a corner stone in its culture.
It seems like a logical and smart thing to do. But it sure hasn’t been that way for a long time. In the words of Jesus, one of the local fishermen at the meeting:
“We have always been the poor fishers, with no voice and no recognition who were up against the other fleets. Big trawlers would literally sail over our nets if we didn’t get out of their way and they knew there would be no consequences. The more you climb up the ladder in the fishing sector you will find bigger and stronger associations and companies who just look out for their own interests and keep us completely in the shadow.”
Fortunately, times have changed and the revised European Common Fisheries Policy is in place. A law that supports low impact fishing. The low impact fishers are fighting hard for it to be properly implemented, while we at Greenpeace are off course strongly supporting them. More and more initiatives and ideas, like the ones that just came up in Dénia, are starting to pop up. There’s still a lot to fight for, and the fishers are doing just that. They are alive and kicking and more supported than ever!
Elvira Jimenez is an Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Spain.
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