The fishing sector is suspicious of the plan to create apprentice fishermen

How do they want to recruit apprentices if the fishing fleet is in danger of disappearing? A cruel mystery that arises from the Catalan fish markets, where pessimism fuels doubts about facing the future of the traditional fishing sector with guarantees.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 05:17
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The fishing sector is suspicious of the plan to create apprentice fishermen

How do they want to recruit apprentices if the fishing fleet is in danger of disappearing? A cruel mystery that arises from the Catalan fish markets, where pessimism fuels doubts about facing the future of the traditional fishing sector with guarantees. A disenchantment that the administration tries to alleviate with initiatives such as the one promoted by the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, focused on promoting the generational change in fishing by financing internship contracts for young fishermen to work as apprentices.

The objective of the Generalitat is to support the fishing sector and encourage new generations of fishermen to access the profession. To this end, the plan establishes a paid learning program on board fishing vessels for unemployed young people. The lack of generational change in the Catalan fishing sector is a serious structural problem. Furthermore, Catalonia, in the last 20 years, has lost almost half of the fleet (46%) which has gone from 1,337 to the current 617 vessels. For this reason, the program also establishes aid of up to 300,000 euros for young people to acquire their first fishing boat.

“The sector has been demanding more flexibility in the incorporation of people from outside for years,” proclaims Sergi Tudela, general director of Maritime Policy and Sustainable Fisheries, beyond the intra-family replacement. With the new project, around twenty contracts are proposed for young apprentices with which "we will carry out adaptive management" so that, if it does not work, "we can propose its modification."

“The legislation is toughening and moving towards the destruction of the fishing sector.” This is how forcefully Aleix Roca summarizes the situation, the fifth generation of Maresme fishermen who represents trawlers in Port d'Arenys. “It is not true that the Mediterranean is overexploited, the problem is that it is a polluted sea” with a temperature that has increased by 2.5º, which causes “species to seek colder waters and making it more difficult to capture.” Roca defines the seabed as “a field of mud, plastics and polluting elements” that aggravate the recession.

The initiative of the Generalitat, to promote generational change, for professionals in the sector is nothing more, they say, “than a smokescreen” to feign the real crisis in the sector. If we add to this “the fierce supervision and harassment of the administration” with an implacable sanctioning system, “it leads us to disenchantment and contributes to the disappearance of traditional fishing,” deplores the 43-year-old shipowner. “If it weren't for the fact that I don't know how to do anything else, after 14 years at sea, I would have folded by now,” the skipper acknowledges.

The administration recognizes “some demoralization in the sector” due to the loss of catches and the restrictions “often imposed by state legislation.” According to Tudela “we are in a moment of transition towards sustainability” both environmentally, socially and economically and moments of transition “are always critical.”

The disenchantment of the sector, in the opinion of the general director "is a situation that is more emotional than real" and he emphasizes that "the numbers are not bad" despite the restrictions imposed by European and Spanish legislation. “Our sector has been able to adapt to the European recovery plans” that force us to lose fishing days.

“These are difficult times but we must look for solutions so that fishermen can earn a living,” they say from the Catalan administration. With initiatives such as the financing of internship contracts for young fishermen, the aim is to facilitate a generational change and so that unemployed young people can "have a salary from day one."

An initiative that for the moment is applauded by the Federation of Fishing Brotherhoods and from which they hope to reap its fruits in the near future: “it is a trade that is learned every day, at the hands of professionals.” The sector, they acknowledge, is “going through difficult times” so we must face “the future with courage and support and give value to the seafood product so that the market values ​​even more “what it has at home.”