Spanish Mediterranean fleet strikes in protest against EU demersal plan

Members of Spain's fisheries workforce, on strike.

Spain’s Mediterranean fishing fleet – spanning the trawling, seine, and small-gear sectors – temporarily stopped operations on 4 June in protest against the European Union’s multiannual management plan for demersal stocks, declaring that the plan which entered into force in January 2020 is gradually eradicating the region’s trawl fleet through heavy restrictions on working times and fishing zones.

The fishermen were publicly supported in their dispute by sailors, shipowners, fish markets, and local governments from along the region’s coastline, according to Cepesca, the Spanish Fisheries Confederation.

Cepesca, which comprises 36 fishing shipowners' associations and 725 fishing companies, said that the activity of 600 Spanish vessels and more than 17,000 direct and indirect jobs are being threatened, while some 3,400 E.U. vessels fish in Mediterranean grounds. In addition to this, the sector is now also facing the future approval of the new E.U. fisheries control regulation which, among other measures, aims to introduce cameras onboard vessels. The move treats fishermen as suspected criminals, Cepesca said.

It also said that the response of the sector and of the Mediterranean coast’s citizens on 4 June had been “unanimous and forceful in defense” of fishing, which in addition to being traditional and sustainable, is “essential” for the socio-economic development of the towns and cities along more than 1,600 kilomters of coastline.

“Trying to put an end to these activities, as Europe intends, would alter the social reality of the Spanish Mediterranean, even undermining its capacity to attract tourists,” Cepesca said in a statement. “We believe that the Spanish government and European politicians, often distant or unaware of the reality of our activity, will have to assess and take into account the discontent of million citizens of the Mediterranean coast.”

The European Union’s Multi-Annual Fisheries Plan in the Western Mediterranean was introduced to regulate demersal fishing with the objective of achieving maximum sustainable yield by 2025. But the trawler fleet working in those waters has faced “a path full of obstacles,” Cepesca said. These include combined 2020 and 2021 fishing effort reductions that have exceeded 20 percent in some cases, it said.

The strike coincided with an online debate entitled “Building a sustainable future for Mediterranean fisheries,” which was led by European Parliament Fisheries Commission President Pierre Karleskind and Spanish Member of the European Parliament Clara Aguilera. At the forum, fishing sector representatives expressed their frustration at the abandonment suffered by the fleet and requested the modification of the management plan to take into account social and economic sustainability, as well as environmental sustainability.

Photo courtesy of Cepesca


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