A small sea with big problems
This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 1 / 2021.
The ﬁshing industry in the Baltic Sea region has long and rich traditions. As early as the Middle Ages, it was one of the most important economic and social activities, and it experienced an unprecedented boom during Hanseatic times. The ﬁshers of today can only dream of such times. Drastic reductions in catch quotas are endangering the existence of many businesses and their future is at risk. What are the causes behind this fatal development?
A Sisyphean task for fisheries management
This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 6 / 2020.
Compliance with fishing quotas and implementation of fisheries regulations requires constant monitoring and control and it was to this end that the Community Fisheries Control Agency was set up as the supreme authority in the EU. Although it is relatively small the agency has to carry out a wide range of tasks. Despite its numerous achievements there seems to be no end to the criticism raining down on the group with regard to the effectiveness of the controls. Why do a lot of things work better in Norway or Iceland?
Competition for fish is becoming increasingly international
This article featured in EUROFISH Magazine 3 2020.
The basic idea behind auctions is very old: the goods on offer will be sold to the highest bidder. This method – which is also used to auction fish and seafood – is as simple as it is successful. But the advancement of digital technologies is now making its mark in this area. Many auctions have completed the step into the modern age and are using the possibilities of the internet to prepare themselves for the global fish business.
In many regions of the world it is common practice for fishermen to sell what they catch to just one or only a few wholesalers. This can work, but it has the disadvantage that the fishermen are dependent on the trader and are sometimes not paid fairly because the trader dictates the prices. That is why quite a lot of fishermen consider auctions to be the better method for first hand sale in the fish marketing chain. The principle of auctioning fish catches and selling to the highest bidder is not new and has in some places proven itself for decades. The bell that heralded the opening of the daily fish auction in Honolulu rang for the first time in 1952, and the Tsukiji fish market which closed down just recently in Tokyo, where it counted 900 licensed traders who handled around 1,600 tonnes of fish and seafood a day, was opened as early as 1935. The roots of the Norwegian Sildesalgslag go back to 1927, and Sweden’s largest fish auction in the port of Gothenburg even dates back to 1910. The idea of bringing together suppliers and potential buyers for trading certain goods such as fish and seafood under regulated conditions offers several advantages from which fishermen, traders and ultimately consumers all benefit equally because a constant supply of fresh produce is guaranteed every day.
International control is essential
Climate models predict that the Arctic could be ice-free during the summer months by the middle of the century, allowing access to previously unused fishing grounds. What sounds positive on the surface poses considerable risks to the fragile ecosystems of the Arctic region. Current international governance systems are not enough to counterbalance these developments and enable effective management of the Arctic fishery.
This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 6/2020.
The regulation of fisheries is an ancient practice dating back over 700 years.
Seven hundred years ago, on the island that is now New Zealand, the Maori people – the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand – practiced some of the earliest fisheries management in the world. Their consciousness of the ocean’s fragility materialized from their belief in the god of the sea, Tangaroa. In order to appease Tangaroa, the Maori made deliberate efforts to restrain from overfishing, and instead, extracted only what they needed; sometimes returning parts of their catch to the sea. Other island states in Oceania were also known to give certain fishing areas time to recover when signs of overfishing became apparent.
This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 5/2019.
WWF project brings alternative livelihoods to fishers in the Adriatic
For the past three years, WWF Adria, a regional WWF office for the Balkans with headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia, has been working in Telašćica Nature Park / Marine Protected Area (MPA), in the center of the Croatian coast. The MPA is becoming known as the place where, for the first time in Croatia, fishers have been involved in the design of the management plan for the protected area. The key objective is to create a model for sustainable fisheries in the Adriatic.
A network has been created between the fishers, government (Directorate of Fisheries), the park management, and WWF Adria to co-manage the fisheries. The network is part of the FishMPABlue2 project which is building good working relationships between MPA managers and fishers in 11 pilot sites in six Mediterranean countries. In Croatia, the project’s “co-management model” strives to develop effective governance measures with a positive impact on the environment and on the socio-economic levels of local fishing communities. Within the project, the fishers decided to create a no-take zone in the MPA themselves and substituted their nets with more selective ones to reduce fishing pressure and catch-per-unit-effort.
This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 5/2019.
The 5th International Arctic Forum was arranged in St. Petersburg, Russia on April 9-10, 2019. Titled Arctic: Territory of Dialogue, it brought together some 3 600 participants including top political figures, scientists, businesspeople, and NGOs. The forum comprised 33 sessions arranged into three broad themes: coastal territories, the open ocean, and sustainable development. Ekaterina Tribilustova from EUROFISH International Organisation moderated a session on promising areas in the Arctic fishing industry under the theme, sustainable development.
The Arctic is one of the most unique and primeval ecosystems in the world, and its exploration can be compared with investigation of the space system. Research and development of the Arctic is extremely difficult due to the inaccessibility of the region, the extremely harsh climate and the complexity of the work. Nevertheless, fisheries traditionally remain one of the main activities in the economy of the Arctic region. Present conditions demand the preservation of fisheries and a more reasonable, economic approach to the processing of fish products and transition to high value-added products. The conservation of the biodiversity of the Arctic seas, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture are essential to protect the fragile ecosystem of the region. The advance of aquaculture in the Arctic region requires a separate assessment. Important issues and objectives include development of marine terminals for the integrated servicing of fishing fleet vessels, enhancement of port infrastructure, the ability to deliver fishery products from the Far East along the Northern Sea Route, application of modern technologies for new fishing vessels and the construction of new processing plants in the northern territories.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing for short) is one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of fishing, marine ecosystems, marine biodiversity, and human food security. Although international bodies and the UN regard illegal fishing as an environmental crime and the European Union has adopted a regulation to combat IUU fishing the problem has not been fully resolved because there are still gaps and loopholes.
Illegal, undocumented and unregulated fishing, also known as pirate fishing, has many facets. In deep-sea fishing, it is understood to mean all types of commercial fishing carried out without the necessary licence, in which the fishing quota authorised under the fishing licence is exceeded, or in which the quantities caught are not, not completely or incorrectly documented. However, it is also considered to be IUU fishing if a fishing vessel fishes in territorial waters of other nations without permission, or if it violates the fishing laws of that country, for example by ignoring fishing times and protected areas. The territorial waters of some West African countries, for example, are among the preferred fishing areas for pirate fishing. In none of these countries is there a strong fisheries control authority, so that the pirate vessels are not in much danger of being caught.
Higher profits through industrial and culinary usage
With the exception of trout, dorade and a few other fish species that are traditionally prepared on the bone, fillets or loins are today the order of the day where enjoyment of fish is concerned. But that doesn’t mean that processing waste and other remains that are often overlooked are worthless: indeed, they often contain valuable ingredients and – if these are processed and prepared correctly – they can definitely find interested buyers. Many of these fish parts are edible and some of them are even considered delicacies in certain regions of the world.
Preferences when it comes to taste are often contradictory and not easy to understand. Dietary preferences have undergone changes in the course of history. What might in one place be seen as waste can somewhere else be considered a culinary delight. In our part of the world no one would think of eating fish entrails, and even the dark strips of meat from the muscle along the lateral line of the fillet are frequently removed. At the same time a lot of these supposedly sensitive fish eaters enjoy eating slimy oysters without considering that they are swallowing a living animal complete with intestine, gills and other guts. What we know, use and appreciate as food is not only regulated by laws and requirements (for the purpose of food safety, for example) but is also influenced by traditions, culture or religion. That explains why by-products like skin, liver, roe and other internal organs are rarely seen on our plates although they are at least just as nutritious as the fillets. Even tolerant people will perhaps turn up their noses at frogs’ legs, scorpions, locusts or insects that are eaten as delicacies in other parts of the world. Our ancestors were much more robust with regard to their food. One only has to think of snipe that was roasted and eaten whole complete with its innards and bowel contents and was seen as the peak of culinary enjoyment. Today this rather dubious pleasure is forbidden in the EU for reasons of hygiene. An unnecessary taboo since most Europeans would probably be quite happy to do without it… With the exception perhaps of some obstinate Italians who in spite of the ban still can’t do without their “merdocchio”.
A number of institutions are involved in deciding how much fish can be harvested from the sea
Fishing quotas have an immediate impact on the players in the fisheries sector and the release of the numbers is closely watched by all concerned. The route by which raw data is converted into the precise figures that are published as fishing quotas is long, with inputs from several institutions, and gives an idea of the enormous significance attached to these numbers.
Fish, individually or in swarms, can usually be found in places offering them the best for their lives: where they find food, where it is safe to reproduce and survive as species. Such preferences, together with environmental conditions, may vary from year to year, and hence the number of fish coming together may vary as well. Fishermen know where to find the fish and are familiar with annual fluctuations. Fishing grounds, when seen as fish habitats, do not feature national borders, whereas fishing vessels carry the flags of their home ports. Fish stocks which are international by nature thus have national owners when turned into catches. The subsets of these fishable stocks allocated to and harvested by sovereign states are called fishing quotas.