Professional artisanal fishing is the only way to guarantee the sustainability of resources and the future of the sector
Francisco Cardona Ramón (also known as Xico) is the secretary of the Fishermen’s Cofradia of Ibiza , in the Balearic Islands of Spain, a member of the Foodnected Community of Practice. He works in a mostly artisanal fishery on the island, which only supplies the local market. We had the great pleasure of interviewing him and discussing his passion for this profession, the importance of local commerce and the role of consumers in sustainability.
‘I consider artisanal fishing to be environmentally sustainable – Francisco tells us – and this is demonstrated by the good state of the sea bed. I believe that the measures needed to guarantee the continuity of this sustainability are fairly minimal: diversification, control of fishing hours, improvement in the classification of the species and continuous development of marine reserves.’
The constitution and establishment of marine reserves gave a huge boost to the protection of the species that Francisco and other fishermen target. Thanks to the self-regulation imposed by the fishers themselves (such as limiting the number and types of fishing gear they use), pressures on marine environments and fishing effort were reduced in these areas, thus allowing fish to breed, ensuring the sustainability of these species and environmental conservation.
Francisco continues to stress the importance of consumer engagement in securing continuity of small-scale low impact fishing activities.
‘Consumers and their commitment to the sustainability of the local community is the cornerstone and the most important factor in ensuring fair and sustainable food systems. For a local community to function, it is necessary to ensure that local agriculture, fisheries and trade are alive and resilient, that there is a circular economy, and that the consumer is committed as well.’
Because all of us eat, we all share the responsibility for the transition towards sustainability: farmers, fishers, processors, policy makers, and consumers can all influence the food system through the decisions they make. By buying locally, people can nurture businesses in their communities, which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and give back to the community. That means the community is more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports, allowing it to take back control of its resources.
‘Investment and commitment to small-scale local commerce is always beneficial for the people, because it supports the development of the local community itself. Globalization is all very well, but we should never forget that in the face of a natural disaster, may it be a war or a pandemic such as the one we are currently experiencing, the only system that will guarantee our food supply will be the primary sector and local trade. If we allow the local commercial fabric to disappear, the consequences in times of crisis could be fatal.’
Despite the challenges he is facing, Francisco is hopeful about the future of the artisanal fishing sector.
‘We are currently facing the problem of a lack of generational renewal. Young people aren’t interested in being fishers anymore, and that’s partly due to the fact that it isn’t a very profitable profession. But I think that after years of decline in the sector, of adjustments, restrictions and loss of identity, in a few years it will find a point of equilibrium where our work and its essential contribution to society will be valued more highly. Society and factors such as a better economic profitability and a greater attractiveness of the profession (linked to working outdoors, in contact with nature, with flexible hours , etc.) will encourage new generations to choose this occupation. This will allow the sector to grow again, but this time in a more organised and sustainable way.’
Francisco and other fishers in the Balearic region are actively working on solutions to connect with consumers. They are now part of Foodnected and since 2008, they also have been developing what he calls ‘their star project’, their own quality brand for the most economically valuable species: the Peix Nostrum label. The Peix Nostrum label guarantees that the fish has been caught by a vessel from the professional fishing fleet of the island of Ibiza, with no more than four hours between the time it was captured and the time it arrived at the market. It also guarantees that it has been handled, refrigerated and conserved correctly, with the highest level of hygiene.
‘In addition to helping the consumer to differentiate the product, the aim of the label is to achieve a better profitability for the fisherman through a greater demand for the local product and an increase in the price of the product.’
Shortening the distance between consumers and producers : that is exactly what the Foodnected project intends to do. The Foodnected Community of Practice will facilitate the emergence of short-chain food systems that work for nature and people – both for consumers and for the small-scale producers who depend on them for their livelihood.