A convoy from an organic waste treatment company entered the A Coruña fish market under escort last Friday. It loaded tons of fish condemned to rot due to the strong blockade of the Galician ports that has caused the stoppage of transport. The picture was the culmination of a ruinous week that has led the fishing sector to moor the fleet in protest between this Monday and, at least, next Wednesday.
To return to the sea, the fishermen demand that the Government put on the table, at a meeting to be held on Wednesday, a solution that urgently lowers the bill they are paying for fuel, which has tripled in just one year. “Either we have immediate, firm and forceful measures or the fishing sector is going to sink,” warns Basilio Otero, president of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Guilds.
Throwing away the fish due to the lack of trucks has been the icing on the cake of a very complicated start to the year. The rise in fuel prices faced by the almost 9,000 boats registered in Spain, half of them in Galicia, is today more serious than the one they suffered in 2008 and which kept the fleet moored for an entire month. Then the sector considered it unaffordable to pay 0.60 euros per liter of diesel and now it is double that. Otero has encrypted 70% of the boats that have remained in port this Monday, with a practically total unemployment in the Mediterranean, Asturias and the Gulf of Cádiz, a strong follow-up in Galicia and less incidence in Cantabria and the Basque Country.
Torcuato Teixeira, general secretary of the shipowners association fishinggalicia, predicts that, given the “lack of positive signs” by the Government, there will be a “cascading” increase in the number of ships opting for mooring. And he warns that if measures are not taken that have an immediate impact on shipowners’ accounts, such as direct aid per liter of fuel that countries like France and Ireland have approved, Spain faces a long strike that will empty the markets of fish. “The minister is playing with fire,” he says, alluding to Luis Planas, head of Agriculture and Fisheries, with whom shipowners and guilds will meet on Wednesday. “On Wednesday we can find 95% of the moored fleet. The measures have to be applied immediately because the bloodletting is brutal”.
Fuel has not been the only cost that has risen a lot lately for fishermen. Oils, ropes or nets have also done it. “The price of fish, however, has dropped. And what is paid now for it is not much more than in 2008″, says Teixeira about the previous great stoppage of the Spanish fleet. A generalized mooring would have serious consequences for the entire chain, from the marketers to the fishmongers. “The profitability and survival of the fishing sector in Spain is at stake,” says Rita Míguez, president of the National Association of Women in Fishing.
Xurxo Lourido explains from the port of Celeiro (Viveiro), on the coast of Lugo, the blow caused by the skyrocketing price of fuel for the people of the sea. This representative of the fishermen of Celeiro says that these docks are mostly ships that fish in the Gran Sol, about 25. More than 15 days ago, the shipowners filled the tanks with skyrocketing fuel, spending about 20,000 euros per boat . When last week the fishing boats unloaded their holds in Celeiro, “the income was zero or none,” says Lourido sadly. Some 140 tons remained stuck in the port due to the lack of trucks to transport them to the markets. “It is tremendous for the shipowners, but also for the sailors, who after breaking their backs for 15 days in extremely harsh conditions, take home only the minimum wage,” he adds.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
Mooring as a protest cannot be afforded by all boats. Those from the Gran Sol that Lourido talks about “will come out again because they didn’t make a penny and you have to pay payroll, Social Security…” From the port of A Coruña, the shipowner Severino Ares, who in his more than 40 years of experience He does not remember a crisis of these proportions, he demands “rapid” measures from the Government: “We are a little beyond the limit of endurance. The solutions have to be imminent and direct, not like the covid aid that took us a year to collect.”
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