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Slow Fish 2011 Opened in Genoa by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki and Slow Food President Carlo Petrini

Italy - 27/05/2011
The fifth edition of Slow Food’s celebration of sustainable fishing opened today in Genoa.

The event was officially inaugurated on Friday May 27 by Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food; Claudio Burlando, President of the Liguria Regional Authority; Pierluigi Vinai, Vice-President of the Fondazione Carige and Silvio Greco, President of the Slow Fish Scientific Committee.

Slow Fish 2011 runs from May 27 to 30 at the Genoa Fiera, with a special focus this year on the small-scale fishers whose livelihood is threatened by industrial fishing and whose activities help protect rather than devastate the marine environment.

A press conference with Maria Damanaki was held prior to the official inauguration. She was introduced by Silvio Greco, who briefly sketched out the complexity of the Mediterranean situation; the sea is bordered by many different EU and non-EU countries, each with its own rules and regulations. In the North Sea, he said, fish quantities are high but the number of fish species was low (only 20 fishable species), while in contrast the Mediterranean has small quantities of many fishable species (300).

Damanaki agreed that the situation is very difficult: fish resources are depleted and fish contains dangerous pollutants, is sometimes sold under false labels and huge amounts are thrown overboard after being caught by mistake. Her answer: “We can probably change the way we eat, but we definitely have to change the way we fish.”

She outlined some of the issues with current legislation and the Common Fisheries Policy, which she said was too complex, hard to implement and focused on short-term economic interests, which often prevail over environmental concerns. She said the planned CFP reform would turn this around, with decentralization and sustainability at the heart of her proposals. “With the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, I am hoping to introduce a new way of fishing that does not prevent fish from reproducing and growing. A new way of fishing that respects sensitive areas like spawning grounds or sensitive habitats and that spares non-target species such as seabirds, cetaceans and sharks. A new way of fishing that phases out wasteful practices such as throwing unwanted catches overboard.” She said she was pushing for an ecosystem approach to fisheries, a new system that should adapt to each region’s heritage, tradition and know-how.

She moved on to talk about a major threat to these conservation efforts: illegal fishing. “Harvesting stocks unsustainably disrupts ecosystems and destroys habitats, but it’s not just a crime against the environment. It also distorts markets, creates unfair competition and erodes consumer confidence.” She described new methods and technologies being used by the EU to crack down on illegal fishing, like a points system similar to the one used for driving licenses, and traceability tools based on genetics, genomics and forensic techniques.

Given the health benefits of eating fish and its convenience (“fish is quick and easy to cook—for me it’s the only healthy and acceptable form of fast food!”), she urged people to keep eating fish as long as it comes from sustainable sources. She said that stocks can produce more if fished sustainably, and that good results were already been seen from the EU’s efforts: “Today, 37% of the stocks we have studied are being fished at sustainable levels. Only last year this figure was 28%. According to scientists, there are 11 stocks that we should stop fishing altogether. Last year there were 14.”

She spoke about her dual responsibility, to ensure that Europeans get as much seafood as they need and that natural resources are not exploited, but used sustainably. She was positive about the chances for success, citing a UK petition against bycatch with almost a million signatures. She said she expected opposition from fishing industry interests and some political levels, and so asked for support to help convince national governments, minsters and members of the European Parliament to vote for her proposals.

In response to questions from journalists, she talked about the importance of education and funding projects that teach people about good behavior, that develop tourism and that provide fisherman with another way to make money, like a new project recently launched in Nice where French fishers are paid to go out on their boats and collect recyclable plastic and other garbage from the sea when they are not fishing. On the controversial issue of bluefin tuna stocks, she talked about an improved situation from last year, when she closed the fisheries early, and described measures being taken by the EU to prevent uncontrolled Libyan fishing of the threatened stocks.

At the official inauguration shortly after the press conference, Carlo Petrini thanked the commissioner and underlined the importance of her presence at Slow Fish. He turned the spotlight onto small-scale fishers, who he said “were not sufficiently protected from this environmental disaster that condemns them to a slow extinction.”

“These years are strategic for EU food policy,” he said, talking about how Slow Food was in harmony with a new food policy strategy that includes respect for the health of the environment, social justice in the protection of small fishing and farming communities and the abandonment of an unsustainable development model based only on consumption and waste.

These small communities, he said, cannot be supported only by the price of commodities, but must be supported by the EU. “The whole community must support the work these farmers and fishers do for the ecosystem,” he said. Small fishers protect their local area, as well as our historical memory, tourism and culture. “Reducing food to a commodity is our biggest mistake,” he said. “We have to recognize the difference between price and value.”


Slow Fish | Partners Lighthouse Foundation.Fondation Slow Food pour la Biodiversité

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