910 kilos of sardines, with an estimated value of 4500 euros, were seized for overfishing today in Portimão. The operation was carried out by the GNR Olhão Coastal Control Detachment.
“As part of an enforcement action directed at professional fishing, the military found that the legally established daily sardine catch limits had been exceeded. This limit aims to ensure the sustainability of the species,” explains the GNR, in a note sent to essays.
The boat’s owners have been identified and may have to pay fines of up to 37,500 euros.
Iberian sardine stocks have been slipping, slowly but steadily, since the 1970s, Portuguese government data shows, hitting worrisomely low levels in recent years. Sardine stocks in Portuguese waters fell from an estimated 106,000 tons in 2006 to just 22,000 tons in 2016, which is under half the threshold that researchers consider the minimum necessary to maintain the health of the species — and it’s been that way since 2009. There have also been a lack of periodic spikes that are generally seen in sardine populations every five or so years according to researchers.
In light of the decline, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, or ICES, an international platform made up of 20 member countries, recommended a complete ban on fishing of the species for 15 years, and a crackdown on overfishing, in order to give successive generations of juveniles — the most threatened demographic among Portugal’s sardine population — time to develop and reproduce.
But Spain and Portugal balked at the recent proposal, instead agreeing, under the auspices of the European Commission, to push the regular January start of this year’s sardine season back by several months. Spanish trawlers were permitted to go out only in late April, and Portugal’s Ministry of the Sea extended the ban several more weeks, lifting it only on May 21. This year’s total Portuguese and Spanish sardine catch is capped at 14,600 tons.