The fishing sector distrusts the plan to create apprentice fishermen

How do they want to incorporate apprentices if the fishing fleet is on the way to disappearing? A cruel unknown arises in the Catalan shops, where pessimism fuels doubts about facing the future of the traditional fishing sector with guarantees.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 05:39
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The fishing sector distrusts the plan to create apprentice fishermen

How do they want to incorporate apprentices if the fishing fleet is on the way to disappearing? A cruel unknown arises in the Catalan shops, where pessimism fuels doubts about facing the future of the traditional fishing sector with guarantees. A disenchantment that the Administration is trying to alleviate with initiatives such as the one promoted by the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, focused on promoting generational fishing relief by financing internship contracts for young fishermen to work as apprentices.

The aim of the Generalitat is to support the fishing sector and encourage new generations of fishermen to enter the profession. For this reason, the plan establishes a paid apprenticeship program on board fishing boats for unemployed young people. The lack of generational relief in the Catalan fishing sector is a serious structural problem. In addition, Catalonia, in the last twenty years, has lost more than half of the fleet (53.8%), which has gone from 1,337 to the current 617 boats. For this reason, the program also establishes grants of up to 300,000 euros for young people to acquire their first fishing boat.

"For years, the sector has been demanding more flexibility in the incorporation of people from outside", proclaims Sergi Tudela, director general of Maritime Policy and Sustainable Fishing, beyond the intra-family relief. With the new project, around twenty contracts are proposed for young apprentices with whom "we will do adaptive management" so that, in case it does not work, "we can consider modifying it".

"The legislation is getting tougher and heading towards the destruction of the fishing sector". This is how Aleix Roca, the fifth generation of Maresme fishermen who represents trawlers in the port of Arenys, sums up the situation. "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 encourages "species to seek colder waters and it is more difficult to catch them". Roca defines the seabed as "a field of mud, plastics and polluting elements" that aggravate the recession.

The initiative of the Generalitat, to propitiate generational relief, for professionals in the sector, is nothing more, they say, "than a smoke screen" to hide the real crisis in the sector. If to this is added "the fierce supervision and harassment of the Administration" with a relentless sanctioning system, "it disenchants us and pays for the disappearance of traditional fishing", deplores the 43-year-old ship owner. "If it weren't for the fact that I don't know how to do anything else, after fourteen years at sea, I would have given it up" and gives as an example that "in 2019 we fished 207 days and currently only 125 days a year".

From the Administration they recognize "certain 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 environmental, social and economic and moments of transition "are always critical".

The sector's disenchantment, according to the general manager, "is more of a mental situation than a real one" 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", which force us to lose fishing days.

"These are complicated times, but we have to find solutions so that fishermen can earn a living", say the Catalan Administration. With initiatives such as the financing of contracts in practice for young fishermen, the aim is to facilitate a generational relief and that unemployed young people can "have a salary from the first day".

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