Whiting quota angers Galician fishermen

A drastic 93 percent reduction in the European Union whiting quota has caused anger and confusion among drag fishermen in Galicia, in northwest Spain, a region heavily dependent on the fishing industry.

Brussels has ruled that the blue whiting quota will be reduced from 29,000 metric tons to 1,000 metric tons in 2011. In 2004, the quota stood at 40,000 metric tons.

Stakeholders have expressed deep concern over the cut, warning the government of the 7,000 fishermen in danger of losing their livelihoods.

“They are people living from the extraction of this resource, and they see the status of these fish every day. They find it hard to understand this decision,” said Regional Fisheries Minister Rosa Quintana, referring to fishermen’s insistence that there are sufficient stocks to maintain a higher catch.

Quintana and the stakeholders will petition Brussels to make an exception to the ruling. A working group of industry representatives, the regional administration and Spain’s Secretary General of the Sea will plead their case to the EU.

Quintana continued: “We are ready to put observers on board our ships to demonstrate that the north whiting fishery in the Bay of Biscay is in better condition rising from European Commission actions. We believe we have sufficient reasons to significantly increase this reduction for 2011.”

She claimed the exception because “there are two stocks of blue whiting, one north and one south. The first is intended for fishmeal factory, while the south is fresh for human consumption.”

“We must be brave enough to submit ways of approaching Brussels in a sector that is vital to Galicia,” concluded Quintana.

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