Union disputes insufficient support for fishermen after lawmakers spit in their face
The Southern Fisheries Workers’ Union says insufficient government support calls into question the future of sardine fishing. Ordinance No. 394/2019, published on the 11th of November, approves the regulation of “support for the fishermen in the case of temporary cessation of fishing activities” stating that, for a fishing ban with a period of lasting more than 6 months, a daily support amount of 32 euros. However, this support can only cover a maximum of 30 days.
The fishermen consider this amount to be “completely ridiculous, in fact, an offense to the dignity of fishermen”. For the Union it is “a scandalous shame” that the value of the support to be given to the sardine fishermen, as accounted for in the decree, is in fact almost less beneficial than the previous support in place.
Going back in time, they point out that “through Ordinance No. 290/2018 of the 26th of October last year, support was granted for a period of 60 consecutive days with a daily value of 32 euros, to be fulfilled in the period from 1 November 2018 to 15 May 2019, and now this support is only set to last 30 days.”
In a statement, the union questions the reduction in the value of this support (from 60 to 30 days). “Due to what? There’s no money? We do not believe it! The funds to cover this compensation come from Community funds, including the European Structural and Investment Funds (EIFF), the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and Mar2020. But why are they not being mobilized to defend fishing activity in our country? Do you want to end another nationally based sector? That’s what it seems”. Where is this money going?
In the preamble of Ordinance No. 394/2019, from this month, it can be read that “sardines are a strategic resource for Portuguese fisheries, the canning industry and exports of fishery and sea products. The capture of this species therefore requires that this resource be exploited in such a way that the activity ensures the sustainability of the resources and also, we say, the social and economic sustainability of the fishermen.” The ordinance heightens the importance of fishing to the Algarve’s economy, and yet spit in the faces of local fishermen by reducing their monetary support. Whether sustainability of the marine resources is a justifiable excuse for harming the livelihoods of local workers is a subjective topic.
Now, with the publication of Ordinance No. 394/2019 vessels that have large-scape operations, commonly used in sardine fishing, are also prohibited from fishing during the period between November 11th, 2019 and May 31st 2020 (more than 6 months off). This means that once again locals in the industry will see their incomes plummeting and their future increasingly threatened.
The Union believes that the industry deserves greater respect from those who now occupy the Ministry of the Sea, who legislate extremely damagingly to fishermen’s rights. The granting of this support to people working on fishing vessels in some individuals’ eyes constitutes an attack on their dignity, as they go to sea every day for long hours, and it is a profession with a high accident and risk association. Others may argue how this is a necessary step in protecting the sustainability of marine species populations, which is also the position the Ministry of the Sea seems to have taken.
The Southern Fisheries Workers’ Union says that they are “aware of the need to ensure the sustainability of resources alongside the sustainability of the Portuguese fisheries sector”, but that officials “cannot be indifferent to the needs felt of fishermen, which indicates total social insensitivity”.
As such, “immediate revision of the published ordinance is required, substantially increasing the compensation values ??in ban situations” argues the Union.
“Enough, the time has come to change policies. Without fishermen there is no fishing. And without decent income there are no men to go on board. The future of fishing in Portugal must be assured today. Another policy is needed that values ??fisheries and fishermen while ensuring the sustainability of resources. The direction of the team that now occupies the Ministry of the Sea needs to involve listening to the professionals of the sector, so that later they can legislate with a greater social sensitivity, which has not been the case,” the statement concludes.