Spain's Andalucía Regional Government Announces 2009 Fisheries Budget
Despite much political wrangling over the annual budget for the province of Málaga - fought out during frosty exchanges between Spain's three main political parties: the Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE), the People's Party (Partido Popular, PP) and the United Left (Izquierda Unidad, IU) - the regional government in Andalucía has allocated a 2009 budget of EUR 86.3 million (USD 11.4 million) for the agriculture and fisheries sector.
With each party accusing the other of stalling talks on the fishing industry's future, the regional government's budget came into effect on 1 January. Málaga's Town Hall representative, María Gámez, emphasized the priority status of the city's fishing industry and said that increased activity in the sector will go a long way in helping to combat the effects of the economic crisis, with increased public investment and business support measures aiming to buffer local employment levels.
The waters off Spain's southeast coastline are the most productive fishing grounds in the Mediterranean, with the well-established fishing industries in and around Málaga and Valencia, forming the largest source of Europe's commercial seafood catch.
Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of the ruling PSOE, responding to questions from 100 citizens on the Television España (TVE) program "I Have A Question For You," came under fire from workers representing the agriculture and fishing industries.
Fishermen's concerns about reduced quotas, falling prices and new regulations are fresh in the audience's minds at a time when the European Commission has stated its intention to flex its legislative muscle with radical reforms to Spain's fishing capacity.
Principal among its proposals are the reduction of the hake and anchovy quotas off the Iberian Peninsula as it borders Spain and Portugal; the Bay of Biscay and Cantabrian Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean; and the Gulf of Cadíz. Known as the total admissible captures for 2009 (TAC), the quota cuts are projected to significantly impact the overall seafood catch, given the importance of hake and anchovy to the Spanish fishing fleet.
Meanwhile, with 30 percent of Spain's fish catch beyond the EU's control, the European Commission's plans for the introduction of a double-points penalty system is also under fire. Fishing companies will start with 12 points, and points will be lost depending on the gravity of the offense; serious offenses account for a six-point loss. Accumulating more points will result in the revocation of a fishing boat license, and fleet captains' operating licenses will be confiscated.
Full details are yet to emerge and dates are yet to be set for the new laws. However, the European Commission seems determined to bring a halt to "the absence of the culture of compliance which threatens the economic viability of the sector," said César Deben Alonso, the commission's director of Development Policy and Coordination in the Maritime and Fisheries Directorate.