Q&A with Tomás Fajardo
On 25 October, Tomás Fajardo, head of Porto do Son’s Fishermen Guild, located in A Coruña, Spain, took office as the new President of the Galician Fishermen’s Guild Federation. It is an organization that brings together 62 Galician Fishermen Guilds and around 20,000 artisan fisheries and shellfish professionals. With an expertise accrued over 35 years and from a family with a long fishing tradition, he feels proud to be taking on this responsibility. He looks forward to working on the main problems and challenges of the sector, such as poaching, lack of sources in the Galician bays, and episodes of “red-tides.”
Q: How did the election process go?
A: The participation was high. Everything passed without incident and more or less 50 percent, half of the incumbent representatives were re-elected. Some cases were striking, as the Cambados fishermen guild or the fishermen guild of Rianxo or Aguiño, where the people in charge of the fishermen’s guild, who had been a long time in charge, ran for re-election but the members decided that they didn’t want them again.
Q: How do you receive this new term of office?
A: After leading the Porto do Son Fishermen’s Guild for 14 years, my intention was that new people take control of the society to give the company a new face. In the end, nobody showed interest and well, I was the second most voted and nobody wanted to run, so, I nominated myself to continue. It gave me four more years to head the guild and given that there were also elections to the Galician Federation, I nominated myself to take advantage of the experience that I had. And what´s more during the last years, with the previous team, in my view, the Federation was quite low, which encouraged me to make up my mind. I take up the challenge with enthusiasm. For me it is an honor to be there representing all my colleagues, and in some way the seafood world, and more with my record and particular experience with the sea world.
Q: You mentioned before that you had seen the Federation a bit “low.” What is your plan regarding this or what do you consider that it would be necessary to do to avoid something like that?
A: I think the Federation must be the house of all Galician Fishermen. They cannot see it as something distant but as their home, their main representation to Galician level. I intend to make it more friendly and popular, where people may go with familiarity and see in their president a trustworthy person whom they can tell their problems without barriers and with an equal treatment, because he is a person who lives and has the same problems.
As I have already mentioned, in my view, the previous leadership drifted the Federation apart. I want to make it more active and proactive, because the truth is that the current problems demand it, and I’m pursuing the union of the sector, not the division. I know if we join our voices, so that our sector has only one, we are going to be heard with much more power. But if we are divided, we are not going to achieve anything, and at this moment, with all the problems and questions to be resolved, we must be united to be stronger.
Q: Recently there were some protests against the forbidding by the European Union of “xeito,” a Galician traditional gear. The regulation has forbidden the use of driftnet fishing since 1 January 2015 and included this gear as one of them. How will this rule affect to the Galician fleet?
A: Firstly, we must criticize that a very selective gear such as the “xeito” will be used in a considerable amount of industrial driftnet fishing. Because, although it is a drifting gear, it is one of a very little dimension, of short length, each operation lasts one or two hours, it isn’t harmful for the environment, because it does not produce seabird mortality, dolphins or turtles… It is very selective. It only catches sardines.
So, our ancestors have already lived off this gear. They used it in a very environmentally-friendly way, as it is proved that it has lasted in time without damage for the sardine stocks. A purse-seine fishing boat, for example, is much more industrial and can fish in a night maybe as much as the people of the “xeito” in all their season. I hope that good sense prevails in Europe and they change their mind.
Q: What are your priorities?
A: I don’t have a wand to fix it all in a wave, but from my experience and my mentality I would like to do something positive for the sector. There are so many problems, for example the poaching. This scourge is leading us in a real crisis because it exhausts the resources with total impunity, and we cannot do anything.
The sector has been aiming for years for a change of the criminal code to consider reoffending poaching a crime. Until now it has only been an administrative fault but those who are reoffending are so violent and so aggressive, they must be considered true criminals, and this may be one of the most burning issues to resolve.
I could also mention the lack of seafood product, cockle and clam in our estuaries. My idea is to have a meeting with the technicians on the topic. I don’t know the cause of the lack of such products in the bays, and the problem has to be studied in detail to find some sort of solution. And the TACs for purse-seine fleets, gillnets, bottom gillnets and longlines are totally inadequate for making our companies viable.
Q: With all these problems on the table, what areas do you think the sector should work on more: commercialization, generate products with added value…?
A: As I said before, I don’t have a wand to fix it all, but I could say that the sector should have a set of measures to solve something. One of them, as you well mentioned, is the commercialization. We know that the market follows the rules of supply and demand. We know how to fish, but we don’t know how to sell, so we must work in order to regulate such supply and demand. We cannot fish more than the demand. Doing that, it would be a way of leaving the primary sector and entering into commercialization. We have also other problems, such as “red tide,” which prevent us from fishing. It is of course a natural occurrence, but maybe we must work to find some kind of insurance or compensation — to find a formula that compensates those periods of stoppage, as the agriculture sector has in the case of negative climatological elements.
Lots of things are left to do. I have many ideas, but it’s thing to have them and another to carry them out. But goodwill, willingness and tenacity to work is what I offer to our fishing sector.