With the future of Portugal’s sardine industry on hold until a crucial decision on next year’s fishing quotas, president of the association of marine sciences Gonçalo Carvalho has made a bid to sway public opinion, stressing people should switch to mackerel “at least for a while”.
The declaration, made during a meeting with journalists and widely publicised in national papers last week, came 10 days before ministers are due to debate scientific quotas which even Carvalho accepts will close the country’s sardine fleet.
According to recommendations, this year’s limit of 16000 tons should be radically revised downwards by 90% to just 1587 tons of sardines nationally in 2016.
It’s a prospect that has enraged fishermen, almost all of whom have said even this year’s quotas “were not enough” and that the sea was “full of fish” which could so easily have been sold to both locals and tourists.
In the summer, fishing lobbies pressured the government to relax quotas, to no avail – and then in September the minister in charge, Assunção Cristas, suggested the government would not be listening to international experts when it set 2016’s limit.
Now, with a new government in charge, the issue is wide open.
As Carvalho explained, in terms of fishing stocks “Portugal and Spain are the worst – the ones who most disrespect scientific reports”.
A minimal quota will allow sardines to replenish their stocks, he said, and, as far as he is concerned at least: “It is possible to make people eat mackerel.”
It is also very possible to smile at the name chosen for the Platform of Portuguese NGO’s on fishing. Público’s report refers to it with its customary seriousness as PONG-Pesca.