Sardine fishing ban blights Portugal’s ‘north and centre’

It’s official: sardine fishing is to be banned in the north and centre of the country.

Following all kinds of ‘scare stories’ this summer, Minister for the Sea Ana Paula Vitorino has finally conceded that scientific data must be taken on board.

Talking to Lusa today, she said sardine fishing “will be prohibited in parts of the centre and north”, due to these areas being “important for the reproduction of the species”.

There are a number of proposals on the table, she added, but the bottom line is that repeated recommendations by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea are finally being taken onboard.

Supported by ecological groups, ICES suggested earlier this summer that Portugal and Spain implement a 15-year ban on sardine fishing.

This elicited a storm of indignation and challenges that ICES’ data was all wrong.

Then the council changed its tack and produced a report last week recommending zero captures for both countries for this year alone.

It looks like slowly but surely, ICES’ is getting its way.

Last week, Portugal’s official response to the 2018 ban recommendation was that the country is “committed to maintaining sardine fishing at levels that allow recovery”.

At no point in a rambling statement was there anything to say “Portugal will not be implementing a ban” – and now we know why.

October is the ‘crunch moment’: the month where Brussels sets member state fishing quotas for next year.

ICES’ latest data, compiled with the help of Portugal’s Institute for Sea and Atmosphere, states that sardine stocks have plunged from 106,000 tons in 2006 to 22,000 in 2016.

Thus sardine fishermen are once again on course for anguish – particularly as there are many in the sector who believe the slump in sardine supply is down to climate change, and has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘overfishing’.

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