Lower quo­tas cause up­set in sar­dine-lov­ing Por­tu­gal


Stricter catch quo­tas pro­posed to pro­tect de­creas­ing At­lantic fish pop­u­la­tions have the fish­ing in­dus­try in Por­tu­gal irate as the re­stric­tions would ap­ply to sar­dines, vir­tu­ally the na­tional dish.

The most re­cent fish­ing stink arose in mid-July, when the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil for the Ex­plo­ration of the Sea (ICES) called for slash­ing max­i­mal catch quo­tas for sar­dine stocks off Spain and Por­tu­gal by a whop­ping 90 per­cent.

The ICES, which pro­vides sci­en­tific ad­vice on the marine ecosys­tem and is­sues opin­ions to gov­ern­ments and reg­u­la­tors that man­age the North At­lantic Ocean, called for catch lim­its of 1,587 tonnes in 2016, down from the cur­rent com­bined quota of 19,095 tonnes for Por­tu­gal and Spain.

“It would be a death sen­tence,” de­clared the pres­i­dent of the Portu- guese as­so­ci­a­tion of net fish­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions, Hum­berto Jorge, who is wor­ried about the 5,000 peo­ple who live off of sar­dine fish­ing.

“I’m stunned, it’s un­ac­cept­able. We are al­ready banned from fish­ing be­tween Jan­uary and April, and each trawler can un­load a max­i­mum of two tonnes of sar­dines a day,” he told AFP.

The coun­try’s sec­re­tary of state for the sea, Manuel Pinto de Abreu, ex­pressed sur­prise at “this ab­nor­mal sce­nario.”

“We are go­ing to clar­ify this prob­lem with the ICES be­cause we know, bet­ter than any­one, about the state of the (sar­dine) stock,” he said.

The Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment gen­er­ally takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the opin­ions of the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity but it does not nec­es­sar­ily fol­low their rec­om­men­da­tions to the let­ter, Josi Luis San­tos Silva, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for

the sea told AFP.

13 Sar­dines Per Sec­ond

Sar­dine fish­ing off the Ibe­rian penin­sula has been reg­u­lated since 2012 in a plan worked out by Por­tu­gal and Spain. It sets a max­i­mal catch limit each year, with 70 per­cent of the to­tal at­trib­uted to Por­tu­gal, and the re­main­der go­ing to Spain.

The ICES has pro­posed a 2016 limit of 1,110 tonnes of sar­dines for Por­tu­gal and 477 tonnes for Spain. The sar­dine limit for the two coun­tries in 2012 was 55,000 tonnes.

Alexan­dra Silva, a re­searcher at the Por­tuguese Sea and At­mos­phere In­sti­tute (IPMA), ac­knowl­edges that the rec­om­mended 2016 quota is “very low,” but says that “lim­it­ing catch (vol­umes) is the only so­lu­tion” to pre­vent the ex­haus­tion of re­gional sar­dine pop­u­la­tions.

Re­duc­ing sar­dine lim­its is all the more dif­fi­cult given Por­tu­gal’s ap- pe­tite for the fish.

Ac­cord­ing to IPMA es­ti­mates, the na­tional con­sump­tion rate dur­ing the month of June rep­re­sented 13 sar­dines eaten per sec­ond per per­son.

To sat­isfy that vo­ra­cious de­mand, Por­tu­gal has turned to im­ports, and now nearly 70 per­cent of the sar­dines it con­sumes come from for­eign sup­pli­ers — no­tably Morocco.

Vic­tims of over-fish­ing and un­fa­vor­able en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, the pop­u­la­tion of sar­dines “has been greatly re­duced in Ibe­rian wa­ters over the past 10 years, and their re­sources are at their low­est level in 37 years,” said Silva.

That sit­u­a­tion is bad news for the Por­tuguese, who in ad­di­tion to hav­ing an out­sized han­ker­ing for sar­dines are also Europe’s largest con­sumers of all fish, with a per capita an­nual in­take of 56 kilo­grams.

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