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The Tuna Almadrabas: First Invest Euro 6 Million, Then Let It Perish?

The Almadrabas sector in the South of Spain believes “it makes no sense that after a period of three years and an investment of nearly Euro 6 million by the Spanish government, the sector now is left to die”.
Recent government decisions are said to threaten the existence of the almadrabas bluefin trap fisheries again, after a history of thousands of years.
Now that scientists have found signs of recovery of the species, and now that wild bluefin tuna seems to be moving away from levels that were threatening their survival, the sector thinks it is time to raise their fishing quotas. These quotas were earlier reduced by 20% in 2009 and 40% in 2010 by the ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas).

To demonstrate that unity creates strength, the Platform in Defense of the Almadrabas convened last week at the Council Chamber of the City of Barbate. The aim of their meeting was for all its members to seek solutions that are to be presented to the Minister Arias Cañete. They demand to have a meeting with the minister to explain firsthand about the problems they are facing, now it has become known that their bluefin catch quota will be virtually the same as last year (657 tons for the four almadraba trap fisheries of Barbate, Conil, Tarifa and Zahara).   Also, the catch for scientific research, which gave employment to the tuna fishermen for an additional few months, has been eliminated.
The meeting is scheduled to be attended also by the mayors of Barbate, Conil and Tarifa, and representatives of the companies owning the traps. “We have to save the jobs that depend on this ancient art, some 400 direct jobs (300 at sea and 100 on land by the company Frialba) as well as 200 indirect jobs.” It is also considered essential that the catch for scientific observation continues, “and if this is not possible, then give us more quota”.
Annually, the almadrabas provide about six months of work to the tuna fishermen. Their tasks begin late January, with the placement of their labyrinth of nets, then work intensifies in the spring and once they have reached their fishing quota, they work for are another couple of months which are necessary to dismantle the traps.  The catch for scientific observation prolongs this working period, plus it provides information on ways to create the recovery of the species.

This year there is still 93 tons of quotas to be divided in Spain, to the benefit of small scale fisheries. Rafael Quirós, mayor of Barbate, considered this part of the quota should be for trap fisheries “which endured by the largest cuts in the last 2 years.” He said “It makes no sense that after three years and an investment of nearly 6 million the sector is now left to die, this is outrageous.”

Equally critical was Diego Crespo, whose family controls three of the four almadrabas. “The issue is not new and comes from the unfair distribution of the national quota since 2008, when it suffered a sharp drop of 60% which virtually made the trap net activity totally unworkable” he said. “Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel, with the recovery of the species, the tuna fishermen believe that start recuperating their quotas, they will start operating traditionally as they did before. Crespo believes that scientific observation is “fundamental” to confirm that the bluefin tuna species is “recovering”.

One of the mayor’s fears is that "if the tuna fishermen operate for 15 days, and the quota is then already reached, they will not have the minimum of working days required to collect unemployment, which would be a very serious problem for the families.”