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Almadraba Bluefin Fishermen Regain Profitability After 6 Years Spain, July 27, 12

The Organization of Trapnet Fish Producers of Cadiz (OPP), which groups the four Spanish almadraba (trapnet) bluefin fisheries of Tarifa, Zahara, Conil and Barbate, is currently calculating the results of 2012 year end’s campaign, which started in February.
For the first time in 6 years, the results are profitable. Catches have reached around 1,000 tons, when adding the 657 tons to which the almadraba were legally entitled as well as the extra fishing quotas purchased from fishermen in northern Spain. The international authorities granted Spain a total of 2,430 tons this year.
According to OPP, the breakeven point is precisely about 1,000 tons per season. Also, another reason for OPP’s optimism is the fact that scientific reports indicate that the species is recovering after the massive industrial catches prior to 2006. That year’s campaign marked a ‘before and after’ because catches were restricted at the request of environmentalists and also even of the trapnet fishermen.
According to Marta Crespo, head of the OPP, to that date catches were “disordered”. Until 2005, fishermen were allowed to fish tuna of 6,4 kilos, therefore, tuna that had not yet reached maturity nor had spawned. Industrial purse seiners were catching up to 2,000 tunas in one single haul, “the same quantity as the entire campaign of a trapnet fishery,” said Crespo. However, the traditional fishery system only catches mature tuna, of over 180 kilos.
After repeated requests of Cadiz trapnet fisheries and of environmentalists, the ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) put a stop to this rampant fishing. The minimum catch size was raised to 30 kilos per fish. Consequently, the number of industrial tuna fishing vessels declined. ICCAT also prohibited the use of airplanes for spotting schools of tuna.
Six years later, it appears that bluefin tuna resources have recovered, as in the preceding campaign "4,000 fish were caught and 12,000 released,” recalls Marta Crespo. Given this favorable scenario, Cadiz trapnetters are confident that the current catch quotas will be raised during the next meeting of the ICCAT, to be held in November. This could give the almadraba fishing fleet a break. “There is no need to fish as much as in the past, but it is necessary to give some more space as the species is recovering,” says Crespo, who recalls that the almadraba only fishes on tuna, unlike other fisheries in the north.
And just the fact that the fisheries from the north of Spain have sold 70% of their quota (they are entitled to 300 tons) has led to disagreements within the OPP. This surplus was acquired by the company from Murcia Ricardo Fuentes & Sons, owner of 50% of the trap net fishery from Barbate, which has caught more than the three remaining trapnetters; this “while we had always divided the quotas”, according to OPP. Given this and other internal disparities, the OPP is currently studying Barbate’s exit from the organization as of 2013; reducing it to Conil, Tarifa and Zahara.