Going by the Book
02 / 1998
June 1996 saw the publication in Barcelona of the book entitled `La pesca en el siglo XXI: Propuestas para una gestión pesquera racional en Catalunya’ (Fishing in the 21st century: Proposals for Rational Fisheries Management in Catalunya). Written on the initiative of the Workers’ Union, this investigative work adopts a multidisciplinary focus to tackle the problems of the fishing sector in this region. The authors belong to diverse fields, all closely related to fishing: Miguel Irazola is a fisherman; Antoni Luchetti, an economist and politician; Antonio Ocaña, a journalist and sociologist; Juan Manual Tapia, a trade unionist; and Jordi Lleonart and Sergi Tudela, fisheries biologists.
Catalunya is an autonomous region in northwestern Spain, beside the Mediterranean. According to 1995 data, the Catalunyan fleet comprises around 1,400 vessels, of which 54 per cent are artisanal or small-scale, 28 per cent, trawlers, 11 per cent, purse-seiners and five per cent, longliners.
The entire fleet fishes in the coastal waters and returns each day to the base ports. The volume of landings of the fleet in 1993 was 55,000 tonnes, around 40 per cent of the total landings for the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Although the fishing sector has just 5,500 workers and provides direct employment to only 0.3 per cent of Catalans, its social and traditional significance in certain places and regions is very high. At the same time, the high consumption of fish in Catalunya (25.4 kg per person per year), together with the preference for fresh,
high-quality fish, generates a huge demand which can not be met by local production.
This would suggest a favourable situation for the Catalan fishing sector to grow. The reality, however, is quite different. In the first place, the resources are generally seriously overexploited and the fisheries are not managed rationally by the various administrations (European, Spanish and Catalan). In effect, there is no adaptive management system, that is, no routine follow-up is carried out of the state of the fisheries in order to find out how it responds to management measures and to then suggest changes.
The study was largely based on interviews with more than 200 workers in the industry and was carried out in the ports. The process allowed for the expression of views of owners and crew on the problems put forward. Their combined effort, through many interviews and sessions with those who actually work in the fisheries, allowed precise and realistic proposals to be formulated for a rational and sustainable management of the resources, based on the biological and ecological aspects of the exploited species. The objective was to increase the
welfare of fishing-dependent people by improving working and marketing conditions. The study served to highlight the needs of the sector in various areas, especially with regard to professional training.
The final report was presented at meetings during the summer of 1996 in Barcelona and in other fishing locations in Catalunya. Fishermen, scientists, members of the administration and the media attended. Towards the end of September, the purse-seiners of Barcelona protested under the slogan `Closed seasons-yes, juveniles-no’ to urge the autonomous government to establish a subsidized closed season during the winter in order to avoid the inevitable capture of juvenile fish and thus conserve the resource. These marches were supported by the workers
unions and their claims were based on the conclusions reached in the study.
Although the authorities ignored these protests, the impact of the study reached the Catalan Parliament and at the end of March 1997 the authors were required to appear before a parliamentary committee made up of deputies of the principal parties in Spain. Hopefully, the battle of all those fighting for a fisheries management that respects the environment and improves the living conditions of the workers will be won in the not too distant future.
The book on Rational Fisheries Management in Catalunya, was written at the initiative of the workers’ union. The research was conducted by an interdisciplinary team. The recommendations were based on interviews with fishworkers. There is much to be learned from the approach adopted for this research. All too often research is conducted by academic institutions, with no consultation with fishworkers. The findings remain confined to academic journals, and do not in any way deal with the persistent problems affecting fishworkers. Fishworker organizations too must learn to take the initiative and encourage research on issues of interest to them, the findings of which can be effectively used in their work and struggle.
Articles and files
TUDELA, Sergi, Going by the book in. Samudra Report, 1998/01, 19