Author: Tanya Gervasi, journalist, graduate from the University of Gastronomic Sciences (www.unisg.it)
How can we promote traditional fishing cultures while respecting their complexity? Slow Fish -Slow Food's campaign to promote sustainable fishing and small-scale productions - also tackles this issue because today fishers are increasingly at the center of a very lively debate, despite being entirely excluded from it.
It is now commonplace to think of fish first, and only later about fishers. Messages and guidelines on what to eat and what to avoid is confusing for consumers. On the one hand, they are told to eat more salmon because it is full of healthy fats like Omega 3, while on the other they are told to avoid it because it is one of the most exploited species. In the meantime, if you take a walk in a supermarket you soon realize that you can only find smoked salmon. These guidelines also conflict with the nature of fishers activities, which is hunting wild food rather than a production activity. And it depends on several factors, such as the fisher's skills, the climate, the time of the year, etc. We therefore need to find ways to bring consumers closer to fishers and create a tighter relationship, so that what we consume corresponds to what can be sustainably fished at a given time in a given place.
When you live in a place located closer to fishing areas it is easier to create a relationship with the people who are directly involved in fishing. However, when you live hundreds of miles away, in a city, this seems impossible. But in Ecuador, people have found the way to turn fishers into community figures through education. Every year, students from scientific universities are invited to an exchange with the fishing community, so as to get a clear idea of the real situation. Science and tradition are two types of knowledge that must be connected and intertwined to progress.
In Croatia, every summer, the residents of the island of Unije invite the students from the University of Arts to help clean the 36 km of beach. In their free time, they organize activities with the children of the community and paint.
In Cancùn, Mexico, school trips are organized to go and meet the fishers from various communities. Children then go back home they tell their experience to their parents.
Sometimes, fishing communities or fishers themselves have to take the initiative if they want to change things. Lidér Gongola Farias says, "Enough with other people talking about us! We have both the knowledge and the voice". Lidér comes from Ecuador and he believes it is necessary to prepare a new political representation: in other words, to train young politicians.
The sea is a common resource. It is not fair that some have more rights over it than others. In addition to this, it is not possible to tackle the environmental issue without first looking at the social issue, that consumers are bombarded with complex and contrasting information.
To raise the public's awareness on these problems, it is possible to organize fun events with communities. For instance, in America the Seafood Throwdown is a successful cooking competition between two well-know chefs who are asked to cook a surprise fish.
It is no longer possible to postpone the problem and it is fundamental to bring fishers around discussion tables and find useful and effective solutions with them.