Sardine fishermen win ‘bumper quota’ just as tourism plummets

Sardine fishermen have finally had their quotas increased. But the good news has been tainted by the realities of the pandemic. Will there be enough people now to eat all this fish?

Thus their appeal this summer is “please eat sardines, and/ or any other Portuguese fish that you find in the markets”. Fishermen’s livelihoods depend on it.

Stories in the press vacillate between describing fishermen as ‘applauding’ the quota increase, to their saying it isn’t nearly enough.

But the truth is the catch for this summer has been upped by 1,300 tons from last year, and now stands at a healthy 6,500 tons.

The irony is that the increase comes – after years of pressure against ‘advice from experts’ to stop fishing sardines at all (click here) – just as the prospect of ‘summer visitors’, which represent a huge slice of the market, has plummeted.

Talking to TSF radio, Humberto Jorge president of the national association of trawler fishermen stressed it has been scientifically proven that there are sufficient quantities of sardines in the sea for a much higher increase in quotas – something in line with 20,000 tons for Portugal and 10,000 tons for neighbouring Spain.

But with the cancellation of traditional gastronomic festivals – where sardines are usually consumed in vast quantities – no one can be sure of what kind of price this year’s sardines will command. Everything is pointing to a kilo being well down on last year’s prices.

The only glimmer of light in the context of the pandemic is that any sardines not sold in fish markets will be absorbed by the canning industry. And hopes are that quotas to July 31 will be increased through to the end of the year, to reflect what fishermen claim is “an abundance of resources in our waters”.

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