First IUCN agreement with Spanish fishing industry – sell-out or positive move?

The Spanish fishing federation CEPESCA and IUCN have signed a co-operation agreement to work together on the problems facing the industry including issues such as biodiversity and sustainable use.

Javier Garat, Secretary General of CEPESCA Photo: IUCN/Group J. Muntaner

“This is the first time in the history of the Spanish industry that a fishing organisation is signing a co-operation agreement with a conservation organisation like the IUCN,” said Javier Garat, Secretary General of CEPESCA. “We want to show that we are ready to talk to the conservation movement.”

Today’s agreement is the first step in an ongoing dialogue and Garat expects a more specific agenda to be ready in a few months.

Spain has the largest fishing fleet in Europe and one of the five biggest in the world. But Spanish fishermen are affected by rising fuel prices and declining fish stocks while the price they can sell their fish for remains stable.

The openness of fishermen to environmental concerns is growing, according to Javier Garat, but some still have their doubts. “They were saying - why should we work with them if they are always fighting us and criticising us?” he said, “but, among board members at least, we think the only way to move forward is to sit down and talk abut things.”

Opinion within the conservation movement is also divided, according to Carl Lundin, Head of IUCN’s Global Marine Programme. “Some people think we are selling out and that we should remain in our ivory tower and not get our hands dirty,” he said, “I believe we need to show we can work with industry. Parts of the Spanish fishing industry are sustainable and it is important for us to find ways to move forward.”

IUCN’s ongoing relationship with European fishing federation FEAP, renewed via a second co-operation agreement at the congress, may serve as a model for this new relationship.

When asked to describe the results of this co-operation so far, Courtney Hough, FEAP General Secretary, said it had produced changes. “Having a friendly enviornmentalist on hand can help us to deal with some pretty difficult issues without getting shot down,” he said. Using the example of the fish farming sector, he gave the example of members who have become a lot more aware of the need for non-polluting ingredients in fish feed.

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