Co-managed Protected Areas of Fishing Interest in Galicia
Creation of co-managed marine protected areas to promote the sustainability of the oceans and its fishermen, stemming from the Prestige catastrophe
The sinking of the Prestige oil tanker off the Galician coast in November 2002 represented one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of Spain. It severely affected the health of coastal ecosystems for years and even now the real extent of the impact remains unknown. Artisanal fishermen and their communities were the first in suffering the direct consequences of this disaster, but in reality it affected everyone: civil society, shop-keepers, hotels, etc… In fact, it was civil society who first reacted in a massive and altruistic way. Waves of volunteers arrived from all across Europe to help the fishermen, who were the most aware of the need to mitigate the impact of the oil on the coast.
For many fishermen, especially for those who can still remember, the Prestige catastrophe also impacted heavily on their consciences. They realised that we all have a role and a responsibility in the care of our seas and their resources. It is these fishermen who demand more individual and collective involvement in the sustainability of the seas, especially now, when 80% of European fish stocks are overexploited and our marine ecosystems are more degraded. In a realistic scenario like this, what is the future of fishermen and especially that of artisanal fishermen? Is it about competing one against the other until the strongest wins and there are no fish left? Is this the kind of coexistence, based on mutual distrust, that we want for ourselves or our sons and daughters? We are convinced that this is not the scenario that fishermen, or anyone, would want. But then, is it possible to head towards a model of fishing production that is more responsible, democratic, collaborative and led by sustainability goals? It is not only possible but necessary, although it requires time for its consolidation. There is no other way. The current model has already been exhausted and has shown that it leads, silently, to impoverishment and social marginalisation.
A model of fishing resources management based on higher involvement and participation of the users is what is needed. This model is built in a participative and collective way, incorporating scientific knowledge and fishermen’s environmental knowledge as the criteria to define and manage the marine area and to design management plans for fishing resources that follow comprehensive sustainability goals.
It is a model that seeks a greater commitment from the fisherman and eases the path towards a new mind-set where fishermen and the public administration have an equal voice in the fora and in responsible decision making. It requires everyone’s collaboration: fishermen, civil society and the State. It also represents a way to shorten the gap between the administrators and the administered, and to contribute with this kind of project to create a more participative citizenship, involved in the sustainable management of public assets.
The main lines of this project development are, on the one hand, the creation of these co-managed MRFI and on the other the strengthening of those already created, like the “Os Miñarzos” and “Ría de Cedeira” co-managed MRFIs.
In case of Muros, we reintroduced a process promoted by the fishermen from this area that was initiated in 2009 with funding from the Galician Government’s Consellería do Mar. In the case of the design and creation of Mar de Ortegal’s MRFI, it is made up of both interior and exterior waters. Initiated by the Cedeira fishermen’s association in 2009, it includes four fishermen’s associations participating in the design.