Sardines triple in price as fishing industry threatens mutiny over Brussels “ludicrous” quotas

Portugal’s sardine fishing fleet is in uproar over “ludicrous” EU quotas that are pushing it to the brink.

As the price of sardines has tripled since 2010, fishermen are demanding that the government stands up to support them or face all-out mutiny.

They warn that quotas that have already seen Peniche and Nazaré barred from any further sardine fishing for the rest of the summer are set to destroy the country’s signature fish altogether.

“It is so serious, it is ludicrous,” net fishing fleet association boss Humberto Jorge explains.

President of ANOPCERCO, Jorge revealed that Brussels’ quotas – dropping every year – threaten to fall so far in 2016 that it won’t be worth fishing for sardines at all.

This year’s meagre 13,000 ton quota could be reduced next year to 1,587, he said – driving sardine prices up yet again, and “in practice, translating into a quasi-ban”.

To make matters even worse, the recommendation for 2016’s quota is not simply for Portugal. It is expected to be shared with Spain.

“How can an international organisation that bases its recommendations on minimally credible scientific data go from recommending quotas in the order of 70,000 tons to 1,500 in the space of four years,” Jorge queried.

If the government accepts next year’s sardine quota “it is against the sector and will have to send in the police or armed forces in to enforce it”, he warned, stressing “net fishermen will not accept it”.

“We have to discover what the real intentions are behind this recommendation,” he added.

It is a question that dogs the sector, as many fishermen feel the EU is trying to muscle out small fleets in southern countries.

Meantime, 10 councils are demanding action by the government over this year’s quotas which have been all but reached in every national port.

Calling them “catastrophic” for fishermen and their livelihoods, Frederico Pereira, the head of Portugal’s fishing federation, explains they were reached far too quickly, because they were badly calculated.

As a government committee prepares to discuss the crisis tomorrow (Tuesday), minister for sea and agriculture Assunção Cristas has claimed her hands are tied.

“If we don’t follow quotas we risk Brussels setting even stricter ones,” she warned – stressing fishermen would nonetheless be eligible for EU compensation.

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