The future of fishing in the Balearic Islands

When we imagine what the Balearic Islands will look like in 2030 – in addition to well-preserved marine and coastal ecosystems, abundant marine life and sustainably exploited fish stocks – we see professional fishermen adopting low impact fishing practices and material and live decently from their work.

While recreational fishing is booming, professional fishing is in decline. The reasons for the latter are various: the absence of generational succession, the influx of fish products from outside, the omnipresent poaching and the impoverishment of the marine environment. The good news is that there are solutions; the bad news is that the fishing industry has not always shown the necessary initiative to implement them.

We have defended and will continue to defend the fishing sector. We criticize the fact that the Ministry of Fisheries has unfairly penalized the Balearic trawler fleet without considering that it had already reduced its effort long before the other continental fleets. We believe that the Balearic fleet deserves more tuna quotas than it currently receives, as this could represent an economic boost for the sector; and yes, we understand that a rise in diesel prices worries the sector. However, if we want to save the Balearic fishing fleet and prevent its gradual disappearance, some things need to change. This is where there is a lack of leadership and initiative. For example, why is the sector mobilizing quickly to demand urgent solutions to the rise in the price of diesel, but is it not also asking for aid to decarbonize the fleet, make it less vulnerable and guarantee its sustainability? ?
We already have the technology at our fingertips. A few ships have installed it in Balearic waters. Floating trawler doors reduce diesel consumption by 30% – between €150 and €250 per fishing day, or approximately €36,000/year per vessel and more than €1 million for the entire fleet. The investment cost for the 30 bou boats in the Balearic Islands would be around 2.5 to 3 million euros, an investment that could be recovered in less than 3 years.

What if instead of managing the current crisis and waiting for the next one to arrive, we acted? The Balearic Islands could have the first carbon-free fleet in the Mediterranean; it could be proactive by declaring marine areas of high protection and demonstrate to other fleets that the protection of 30% of the sea by 2030 is compatible and positive for the future of fishing; it could be an example of transparency and compliance to end illegal fishing and marketing; it could be a pioneer in the implementation of measures promoting the recovery of rays, sharks, turtles and seabirds; and this could lead to the certification of a local, sustainable and excellent quality product. We have promising examples and steps in the right direction: the network of marine reserves of interest for fishing, the fishing management plan for Ibiza and Formentera, the installation of green boxes, the PeixNostrum brand, the management of dolphinfish and industry participation on December 16, 2021 – with leisure enthusiasts and restaurants – to seek solutions to illegal fishing. But there is a few more habits from the past that need to be banishedsuch as resistance to the declaration of new marine protected areas or management measures aimed at conserving vulnerable marine habitats and species such as coral reefs.

Despite all the difficulties, the fishing industry has a lot to gain. There are fewer boats and therefore less competition; demand for fresh, quality produce is strong; and a new tourism law requires establishments to differentiate between local and imported fish. All this provides an excellent platform to significantly improve the economic performance of the Balearic fishing sector; a sector which, if it wants to, has a promising future. But he must believe in himself and act accordingly. Now is the time to take courageous action.