The use of slave labor to catch fish is an epidemic whose severity needs no elucidation. New technology, however, may hold the key to fighting forced labour in the fishing industry. An estimated 21 million people are trapped in enslaved labor around the world. Many of these slaves are forced to work on fishing vessels, with illegal fishing practices generating over $23 billion each year. The tendency is for men who are seeking work to board ships willingly, but then once they are isolated at sea, their wages are withheld, and they are subjected to violent, bleak working conditions for years.
Estonia’s economy has grown 4.5% in the first quarter of 2019 with a new GDP totaling €6.7 billion. The country’s economic growth has been broad based with expansion of the fishing sector among the contributors to the improving economy. The exports of goods, which grew by 9.6% in the first quarter, the fastest pace recoded in the past two years, is one of the biggest contributors to the country’s healthy economy.
Fish processing continues to be a notable industry in Estonia. In 2017 Estonia processed 51876 tones of fish, mainly frozen saltwater fish but also fish fillets in batter, and canned sardines, sardinella, brisling and sprats. Exports totaled €146 million with the largest markets in Ukraine, Belarus, Denmark and Finland. In 2017 approximately 5% of Estonia’s aquaculture production was exported. The species responsible for this exportation were mainly European eel, rainbow trout and European crayfish.
Convincing benefits for suppliers and buyers
A lot of primary food producers try to sell part of their products directly to consumers and thereby circumvent other forms of trade. What has long been common practice for agricultural products is now becoming increasingly popular for fish and seafood, too. This marketing principle has advantages for both parties: the producers get better prices and the customers get optimal freshness.
When at around 4 p.m. the "petits bateaux" return to the port of Le Guilvinec on the French Atlantic coast and the fishermen unload their freshly caught fish or langoustines they are already eagerly awaited at the quayside by locals, restaurant operators and tourists. Fish that is not snapped up immediately can be seen shortly afterwards in one of the harbour fish shops, for example "La Marée du Jour", where crowds of customers are also already waiting. Three and a half hours further north-east by car in Cancale a good half dozen colourful stalls have been set up next to the town’s beach. That is where local oyster farmers offer their specialities. It would be hard to get "creuses de Cancale" fresher, or for that matter at a lower price, than here. Fresh fish sales straight from the fishing boat are also popular along the German Baltic coast. Anyone who wants to buy freshly caught cod or herring directly from the fisherman in the harbour of Wismar has to be an early riser: the town’s remaining fishermen usually land their day’s catch around breakfast time. And a lot of German trout producers, too, sell their fish directly to their customers. This sales channel is in the meantime practically indispensable from an economic point of view. Almost all producers offer their products in farm shops or at weekly markets, both fresh and processed – mainly hot smoked. Some trout farmers even have their own snack stands or fish restaurants. Direct sales are more lucrative than supplying to wholesalers and retailers. And they enable even smaller enterprises with relatively low production volumes to stay in business.
Remaining agile in a dynamic marketplace
The Internet offers fishermen and retail shops ways to sell their catches that were unheard of a decade ago. Young (and older) consumers have quickly understood the benefits of online shopping, and vendors must keep pace with the latest, continually changing developments.
Sellers enjoy superior visibility, allowing smaller concerns to compete with larger businesses, with 24/7 exposure to a wider national, even global, audience. They also benefit from enhanced business management. By tracking data about customer purchases, sellers learn their customers’ preferences and are able to target those groups with specific offers. An Internet presence allows businesses to remain agile in a dynamic marketplace.
Two businesses, while maintaining their physical stores in Vigo, Spain, have embraced the new technology. La Pescadería de mi Barrio (My Neighbourhood Fishmonger) is a business-to-business (B2B) concern. Delmaralplato is both B2B and business to customer, selling to restaurants and consumers.
Technology is playing an ever greater role in the seafood industry both on land and at sea. Industry 4.0, IoT (internet of things), blockchain, cloud computing, robotics, and artificial intelligence, are among the terms being used today in connection with the seafood industry. Another technology, holography, used to produce holograms, devices widely used on credit cards to provide authenticity and prevent counterfeiting, is now being deployed to tackle illegal fishing in the Indian state of Kerala.
The Bangladesh Fisheries Ministry has banned fishing in coastal areas for 65 days in an attempt to protect its marine populations during breeding season. The ban has been enforced by authorities and is set to run until July 23. Affected fishermen are concerned about how this will affect their livelihoods and their income. Although similar bans have been issued in the Bay of Bengal in the past, this is the first time the ban extends to include small-scale and local fishing boats.
On October the 24th, the commission outlined a proposal on the fishing opportunities in the Black Sea. It focused on the commercially most important species, sprat and turbot with Romania and Bulgaria sharing the catch limit and quotas.
The proposals include for turbot, a catch limit of 114 tonnes, that will be distributed equally between Bulgaria and Romania. There was also a recommendation to limit turbot fishing to 180 days per year and a complete ban over a two month period (April 15th to June 15th). The measures aim to increase the population of this Black Sea icon.
For sprat the commission suggests maintaining the catch limit of 11 475 tonnes of that Romania will receive 30% and Bulgaria the larger 70% share.
The Commission’s recommendations comes from a roll over from 2018 and advice giving from the Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). It follows the multiannual management plan for turbot fisheries in the Black Sea, approved in 2017 by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).
Member States will examine the proposals outlined by the Commission when they meet at the December Council on Agriculture and Fisheries (December 17-18).
European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, and Mr Kim Young-Choon, Minister for Oceans and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea have agreed to collaborate closely to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The new alliance, in line with the objectives of the EU’s Ocean Governance strategy will;
- exchange information about suspected IUU-activities
- enhance global traceability of fishery products threatened by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing, through a risk-based, electronic catch documentation and certification system
- join forces in supporting developing states in the fight against IUU fishing and the promotion of sustainable fishing through education and training
- strengthen cooperation in international fora, including regional fisheries management organisations.
Israel’s Defence Ministry announced in late October a re-extension of Gaza’s fishing zone, which had been tightened following border hostilities and Palestinian demonstrations of the Great Return March which began in March. "Israel informed the Palestinian side that it has decided to extend the fishing area to nine nautical miles from the centre to the south and six miles from the centre to the north of the strip," said the chairperson of the fishing committee of the enclave Zakareya Bakr in a statement.
The fishing zone had been as wide as 20 nautical miles from shore as agreed in the 1995 Oslo Accords, and 12 nautical miles following the 2002 Berlin Commitments. It has in recent times been “by default” six nautical miles except during frequent restrictions. Earlier in October, the Defence Ministry ordered a tightening to three nautical miles, which severely impacted local fishermen because of the small quantities of fish found so close to shore.
In addition to tightening the fishing zone, other past measures taken because of hostilities have included restrictions on fuel supplies and closures of commercial crossings from Gaza, which also adversely affect fishermen. Gaza-harvested fish is sold locally as well as in other Palestinian areas and in Israel.
Fishermen in Northern Ireland (NI) are troubled by EU demands to allow EU vessels full access to UK fishing waters following Brexit. Harry Wick, CAO of the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation, who represents 75% of the NI fishing fleet, told the News Letter that the UK has the best fisheries waters in the EU but won’t have control over them, despite Brexit. His comments were made after the 27 remaining EU leaders published a statement that vowed to protect their own interests, on issues from fishing to fair competition and the rights of citizens. Calling the current situation unfair, Mr Wick noted that French and Spanish fisherman today take 15% of prawns from the Irish Sea; the French catch 85% of cod from the English Channel while the UK gets only 11%; the UK holds 70% of the Irish sea territory but is only allowed 30% of cod from it; EU vessels catch six times as much fish in UK waters as UK vessels catch in EU waters; and that more than nine of ten commercial fishermen in the UK voted for Brexit. As a response, EU fishermen argue that they have fished the areas for centuries and that their industries are heavily dependent on catches in UK water. They also point out that much of the UK’s own produce is exported to the EU. The French want the status quo to remain despite Brexit, said Mr Wick, but after Brexit we would expect our fair share from UK waters.