Sardine quota “reprieve” looks likely

Fears that the government might accept scientific studies calling for decimation of Portugal’s sardine fishing quotas have at last been allayed, though it is still uncertain how many of the country’s signature fish boats will be allowed to catch.

Meeting with fishermen’s organisations yesterday, minister of sea and agriculture Assunção Cristas guaranteed that the government will not be listening to the so-called international experts who have called for sardine quotas to be reduced to just 1587 tons in 2016.

But she was not able to say whether quotas next year will remain the same as this year’s 13,000 ton limit – a level fishermen claim is far too harsh.

Humberto Jorge, president of the country’s net fishing fleet, is pushing for quotas to be increased next year to between 16,000 – 17,000 tons, while union boss Frederico Pereira is calling for limits to be raised to as much as 30,000 tons.

Both are agreed that yesterday’s meeting brought “promises”, but neither was ready to perform cartwheels.

“The world is full of promises”, said Pereira, adding he preferred to wait to see if any of them were carried out.

As we explained last month, this year’s quotas have been all but exhausted with sardine fleets in the Algarve, Peniche and Nazaré already unable to set out to sea.

Government compensation for landlocked sardine fishermen, running from €20-€27 a day, is open to extension beyond the 60-day limit, but again, fishermen say this is not the way ahead.

“It is absolutely unsustainable that a sector should be reduced to fishing just three or four months a year”, explained Pereira.

Only a week ago, an article in Diário de Notícias suggested difficulties in the sector are now forcing sardine fishermen to emigrate (click here) – a scenario that even in the worst years of the financial crisis seemed unthinkable.

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