Small-scale tuna fishers in Europe’s most remote regions are a step closer to influencing high-level decision-making on fisheries matters in the European Union (EU). This comes after the recent establishment of the Outermost Regions Advisory Council (ORAC).
As an international entity, this council will define and promote measures for the responsible management of fishery resources in the outermost regions of the EU. These regions include islands, archipelagos and land territories in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean basin and the Indian Ocean.
The Council’s establishment marks the beginning of a new era of representation for one-by-one fisheries which catch tuna with pole-and-line and handline fishing methods in these regions.
The ORAC is the eleventh stakeholder-led fisheries advisory council to be established by the EU. Plans to establish the ORAC started in 2013 as part of efforts to implement the framework of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.
Fishers in the EU’s outermost regions now have representation in the ORAC’s four working groups and decision-making structures. Small-scale fishers from Azores and Madeira (Portugal), the Canary Islands (Spain), French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion and Saint-Martin (France) are among those who will benefit directly.
The International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF), an international charity that supports responsible one-by-one tuna fisheries and the communities, businesses and seas connected to them, is a founding member of the newly established advisory council.
Yaiza Dronkers Londoño, the Atlantic Region Manager of IPNLF, describes the establishment of the ORAC as “an important step forward”. “One-by-one tuna fishers will now have more direct influence in the EU through representation in the ORAC, which is fantastic news,” she says. “It gives our IPNLF members a chance to have a bigger and more powerful voice in decision-making and in influencing EU fishing policies. We are very excited to help amplify their voices.”
The EU’s outermost regions are home to thousands of one-by-one tuna fishers. Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands are, for instance, known for their one-by-one tuna fisheries in which age-old and low-impact fishing methods are used. Unfortunately, these artisanal fisheries compete against highly industrialised fleets for access to tuna resources and market share.
Small-scale fishers often have limited visibility and recognition in the market. An important reason for this is that they do not have the same lobbying capacity as their industrial competitors when it comes to attending and influencing the many international meetings on tuna fisheries management.
“Industrialised fleets drive overfishing of many tuna stocks. They often benefit from global fisheries certification schemes and subsidies at the expense of small-scale fishers and their livelihoods. Overfishing and harmful fishing methods also come at considerable ecological costs, adding pressure to fragile marine ecosystems. Unfortunately, when strict quotas are forced onto one-by-one tuna fisheries who are recognised for their low environmental impact and socioeconomic importance, their survival is on the line”, points out Dronkers Londoño.
ORAC’s goals include providing these decision-makers with advice on conservation and the socioeconomic aspects of fisheries management, and on how to simplify the EU’s fishing rules. The Council will also advise the EU Commission on fishing rights, subsidies and data collection from fisheries in the outermost regions.
The Council’s work has already started and its key leadership positions have been filled.
David Pavón González, a one-by-one tuna fisher from El Hierro in the Canary Islands, has been elected as the chairperson of ORAC’s Executive Committee. Pavón González leads the Federación Regional de Cofradías de Pescadores de Canarias and the Sociedad Cooperativa del Mar Pesca Restinga. Pavón González says the Council is well-positioned to help convey the unique realities of one-by-one fishers and their communities to EU decision-makers. “The fishers of the outermost regions have many unique needs. ORAC will help ensure decision-makers consider this and adapt to our reality,” he says.
Gualberto Costa Rita and Charif Abdallah from Chambre d’Agriculture de la Pêche et de l’Aquaculture de Mayotte in Mayotte have been elected as the vice-chairpersons of the Council’s executive committee. Rita, a pole-and-line vessel owner from the Azores, is the president of the Federação das Pescas dos Açores, which represents small-scale fishers from the islands of the Azores. He is also the chairperson of ORAC’s Pelagic Working Group. On his role, Rita explains “It is a great responsibility and honour for me, professional and personal, to be the representative of the defense of tuna fishing in various outermost regions.
Tuna fishing in the ORs has a significant social and economic impact, which creates and secures jobs, contributing to the cohesion of coastal communities. The activity is part of the history of many fishermen, being for many of them their only means of subsistence.”
IPNLF is represented by Dronkers Londoño, who was elected as the vice-chairperson of the abovementioned working group.