The voices of European fishers must be listened to!

2 May 2023

Fishers’ unions across Europe mobilise to defend their sector! ETF and its affiliates in the Fisheries sector start today a week of actions across Europe to draw attention to the socio-economic risks the industry is exposed to due to the recently adopted EU Action Plan “Protecting and restoring marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries.”

Starting today and until the 9th of May 2023, our fishers from different European countries will voice their deep concerns about the negative impact the measures included in this ‘EU Action Plan’ will have on a sector. Their message is straightforward: Fishers, as the True Guardians of the Sea, must be protected!

In a Manifesto, the ETF Fisheries Section presents its main concerns about the socio-economic impact of the ‘EU Action Plan’, particularly in the regions where bottom trawling represents a relevant part of the fisheries operations.

The ETF and its affiliates warn that, as a consequence of the implementation of the action plan, Europe risks deepening its dependency on imports of fish products, jobs will be lost, fuel consumption will increase, and working conditions within the sector will further deteriorate, making the industry even less attractive to young generations.

The ETF calls for critical targeted interventions within the European fisheries sector to move forward to building an environmentally and socially sustainable fisheries industry:

  1. A balanced Common Fisheries Policy – The ETF and its affiliates are in favour of environmentally sustainable fisheries. Fishers – as true guardians of the sea – are mindful of the necessity to fish in a responsible way. But the Common Fisheries Policy comprises three pillars: environmental, economic and social sustainability. Drastic measures such as the ones included in the action plan show that social and economic sustainability is disregarded, and the Commission has an unbalanced approach.
  2. Exosystemic approach – Evidence shows that the unhealthy state of some fish stocks depends on the impact of a number of human activities, such as pollution and marine litter. Fisheries should not be the ones paying the price of these circumstances, and specific measures should be in place to address and reduce the harmful impact of the other factors.
  3. Innovation VS banning the trawlingThe Commission explicitly targets bottom trawling, but banning it without considering the social and economic consequences is clearly not a solution. The ETF insists that efforts should be instead placed into innovating trawling and reducing its impact on the seabed and fuel consumption.
  4. Fisheries may be a small part of the economy, but it is critical for local economies and a key link for other industries (such as tourism and hospitality).
  5. The fisheries sector must be protected – ETF Fisheries call on the European Commission and the EU Member States to protect and support the industry for its vital role in providing jobs, quality protein products and contributing to the EU food security.
  6. Other adverse effects of the EC Action Plan should be considered. Suppose bottom trawling is effectively banned in an increasing number of Marine Protected Areas. In that case, EU fish consumption will inevitably deepen its dependency on fish product imports from countries with lower environmental and social sustainability standards.

Juan Manuel Trujillo Castillo, Chair of ETF Fisheries Section, explains the reasons behind our Fisheries Week of actions:

Considering the fisheries sector’s crucial role for local coastal economies by providing jobs and ensuring quality food to all European citizens, we want to make the EU and national authorities, key actors within the sector and European citizens aware of the dramatic socio-economic consequences these measures will have – once implemented – especially in the regions where bottom trawling represents a major part of the fisheries operations.’

The measures included in the ‘EU Action Plan’ happen at critical times for the sector, facing more and more difficulties in remaining afloat in specific regions and confronted with tough and increasing competition for marine space while fisheries struggle to keep their fishing areas.