Saturday, 6 June 2015

iFish, We Fish - how the war is being won for fishermen in the Atlantic at least.

Mike Warner has posted an excellent article iFish, We Fish on his seafood blog - well informed and seeking to see a way forward by focusing on what the industry has got right and how it is now - largely thanks to social media and real time data acquisition - able to work at local rather than pan-European levels and in turn combat the negative forces of the NGOs and a media seemingly hell-bent on doing the industry down.

Mike looks first at thew background to the current situation - living with the CFP - and the role Europêche and it's latest offshoot iFish

Here are some of the key paragraphs from the article:

Europêche is the overarching and singular trade body, which represents the twelve member fishermen’s organisations, across nine of the member countries that fish commercially. Although founded in 1962 with the intention of defending the interests of its members and ensuring productive dialogue between them and the EU, its role has recently been galvanized and rejuvenated by a concerted effort to play an increasingly influential part in the proposal and adoption of policy in an already highly regulated sector. 

Kathryn Stack, its newly appointed Managing Director and former doyenne of EU Fisheries policy implementation, makes the case: The commercial fisheries of the EU stretch for thousands of square miles, from the inhospitable seas of the Arctic North, to the warmer and more favourable climes of the Southern Mediterranean. These communal waters harbour a plethora of commercial species of fish and shellfish, the landings of which form an integral part of the economies of 23 member countries, accounting for a colossal 4.9 million tonne catch, from a fleet of 87,500 vessels, a statistic that indicates a world ranking of 5th largest in terms of total output.

The various representative fishermen’s bodies across the EU have met this insidious pressure head on and have put their case across in a forthright and meaningful way with overwhelming evidence both scientific and anecdotal, that change has and is happening, with huge advances being made in terms of the ongoing and resourceful management of numerous fisheries. 
Until relatively recently, the different trade federations involved, have remained a little unconnected in their collective ability to counter any negative spin that has built up and therefore place themselves in better stead to meet the arguments and assertions placed in their path. Combine that with a lack of presence in the corridors of the Brussels policy-making echelons, a more cohesive partnership was sought and the embodiment of that has been the advancement of the role of Europêche. 

“For far too long the industry has had to endure the onslaught of NGO and media prevarication. Our industry is one of the most heavily regulated in the world and our members some of the most legislation-compliant. We believe in compliance, but also in innovation, progression and responsibility. One of our foremost aims is to uphold the tenets of sustainability: Environment, Social, and Economic (Planet, People, Profit), incorporate them into legislation and ensure in doing so that the views, knowledge and experience of our membership are afforded the recognition and respect from those who ultimately manufacture the policies that bind us.” 

“We commissioned a pan-European survey,” she continues, “to ascertain exactly where consumer attitudes lie in respect of our industry, its practices and objectives and the dietary importance of fish and the significance of the accompanying health benefits, in a society where wellbeing is of paramount importance”
68% of consumers in the poll, revealed, that knowledge of where and how the fish was caught and by whom, is of significant importance. A further 54% attested that knowing a species was fully sustainable and responsibly fished, would influence their decision to purchase. Furthermore, a staggering 86.4%, in the UK alone, regarded the need for increased Government support for the fishing industry, as vital, in maintaining a healthy and well-managed supply of fresh seafood. “We took these figures (and many more) from our findings”,  
Stack expounds. “From what we saw, it was obvious that there was a statistical need for improved consumer engagement and knowledge transfer. The survey showed a clear recognition by Europeans of the importance of our industry not just for food but as part of the wider economy” Thus was born iFish.   Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the UK’s National Federation of Fishermens’ Organisations (NFFO) and a Vice President of Europêche, regards iFish as a natural response to the considerable dearth of critical information, lately available to the average fish-consuming European. “The public domain has been swamped with inaccuracies about the fishing industry for far too long.
Our technological development in recent years coupled with the management systems we, as fishermen, have implemented, has seen us make huge advances in the way our industry operates now.” he asserts. “But it doesn’t stop there. The consumer needs to also understand that the days of archaic, top-down prescriptive and sweeping, blanket-legislation from Brussels are over. For our fisheries to be managed correctly, decentralisation and more regionalisation, has to happen, so policy makers can work alongside fishermen to implement a framework that is not only flexible in its approach but local in its governance.” “Fishermen are able to react very quickly to circumstance and opportunity. That means real-time data being acted on in a timely way and not accompanied by the lag we’ve seen in recent years. Fishermen need to be consulted at every opportunity and we need to see more decisions being made in the wheelhouse.” 

“There is a need throughout Europe for consumers to have a clearer idea of how the fish they eat is caught, the fishermen and the vessels behind the catch. Fishermen take their role as stewards of the sea incredibly seriously. There is no one more determined than the fishermen themselves, to see healthy and sustainable stocks. The EU sector is leading the way in innovative technology and gear development and is taking part in a huge number of projects to improve catches, enhance monitoring and compliance and participate in voluntary oceanic cleanup. This proactive approach and total commitment to responsible fishing must filter down to the public, so they can see for themselves all the hard work and success the sector has achieved over the last few years.”