Promoting Sustainable Fishing in the Balearic Islands: Anna Masdeu Lalanza joins team LIFE to manage this new initiative.
The Low Impact Fishers of Europe has teamed up with the Marilles Foundation (https://marilles.org/en) to launch a new initiative, the “Sustainable Fishing Programme” in the Balearic Islands. This seeks to build on the many years of experience of small-scale fishers to develop sustainable fisheries around the islands. It is a new venture for LIFE, which will involve working with the fishing communities and with the fishers’ associations at the grass roots level.
Anna Masdeu Lalanza joined Team LIFE on September 1 to take up a new post as Project Officer, on the Sustainable Fisheries Programme. She will be responsible for developing the programme of work with fishing communities and fishers’ associations.
Anna is an experienced manager, having worked both in commerce and in the management of fisheries projects. Until recently she was the manager of the Costa Brava Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG).
Anna, welcome to LIFE! How did you come to learn about the post, and before applying for the job, did you know about LIFE, and what are your impressions about the organization?
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure for me to be part of your organization and it is a professional opportunity in which I hope to be able to contribute everything I know and also to learn from your experience.
The first time I heard the name LIFE was at the end of 2017 when I was talking to some young fishermen from the Costa Brava who were forming an Association with the advice of LIFE. At that time, I was the manager of the Costa Brava Fisheries Local Action Group in Catalonia and one of my tasks was to find out about the fishing situation in that area by talking to all the actors. From then on, I know that LIFE, through Marta Cavallé, the Coordinator of LIFE’s Mediterranean Programme, participated and still participates in the Co-management Committee of the Bay of Roses and Pals Cuttlefish, which began during 2018 in the Costa Brava area, approving a management plan that was agreed upon in February of this year.
LIFE is a platform that allows the voice of the small-scale fishermen to be heard at a higher level in collaboration with the other fishermen’s organisations such as the Cofradias and/or Federations. The coordinated participation of all the possible agents is necessary to defend the role of the fisherman better because there are many challenges to face in the coming years.
For the last 3 years you were the Manager of the Costa Brava FLAG. This brought you into close contact with the fishers and their problems. In your view, what are the biggest challenges facing small-scale fishers, and what are the key problems they face in terms of making ends meet?
In general, all fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea face a great challenge, which is to achieve SUSTAINABLE FISHING. This great challenge involves having a systemic and global vision of what fishing means for humanity. We are not just talking about extracting a resource from the marine environment to cover the food needs of the population, we are talking about a plethora of socio-cultural, economic and environmental interrelations, etc., a very complex structure of dynamic networks that act at different levels. Sustainable fishing must involve optimal management of the fishery resources, real knowledge of the contribution of fishing to the local economy in coastal areas, ensuring that fishermen earn a fair living, enhancing the image of fishermen, preserving and disseminating their cultural and natural heritage, etc. So, as you can see, sustainability must be addressed on many fronts, all of them challenging.
Getting a fair deal, and reaching consumers directly is a major challenge for small scale fishers. How will this project help the fishers to achieve these objectives?
Getting a fair price on fresh fish is out of our hands. The fisheries market is very voracious and unfortunately directly affects all fishermen in the Mediterranean. They cannot and should not compete on price with fish from other destinations, but they can differentiate their product in terms of quality. This is the work that is being done in the fishermen’s associations throughout the Mediterranean, trying to differentiate themselves and their products from the rest in terms of quality. Quality means doing things better than the consumer expects and, in the case of fresh fish, this means achieving optimum fisheries management as well as meticulous care of their product and short chain (or direct) marketing. This is because the consumer who is willing to pay fairly wants the fish product to be sustainable, fresh, local and in season. This must be our consumer, a consumer who is committed to sustainability.
Another important aspect of the project is co-management. What are the key factors for successful co-management in your view?
Co-management is a model of governance that involves bringing all actors to the same table to address a particular situation. It is usually made up of fishermen, administration, scientists and NGOs. All of them with their interests and problems. The aim is to mediate conflicts and defend interests in order to reach a consensus. The key factors are to listen to and understand all parties, and to try to get all of them to cooperate and compromise to achieve a common goal. This is a model of governance that we hope to be able help to establish and strengthen in the coming years in the Balearic Islands.
They say that fishing is a man’s world. What attracted you to fisheries, and as a woman working in fisheries, how do you perceive the role of women in the sector?
For several years now, various actions have been making visible the women who have always been part of the sector, but whose role was not recognised. It is true that the majority of those who go out fishing are men, due to the harshness of the jobs, the roles and dynamics established since ancient times and which are difficult to change. The fishing sector in the north-western Mediterranean is made up of family micro-businesses, where women are usually part of the company and are involved in administrative and commercial tasks. I am making a lot of generalisations because each area really has its own idiosyncrasies and depending on the evolution of the family business the wife and children of the fishermen continue with the family business or not.
In my case, I do not have a direct origin with fishing, but I can explain to you the case of my great-grandfather who was a fisherman from Nerja (Malaga), who had 6 daughters (one of them my maternal grandmother) and a son (the youngest). There was no future in fishing for his daughters, so they decided to migrate to Barcelona to learn the trade of tailoring.
My first contact with the fishing sector was in 2017 when I joined as manager of the Costa Brava Fisheries Local Action Group. I am not an expert in fisheries management, but I come from the field of local economic development based on primary sectors such as agriculture and fishing, and tertiary sectors such as tourism. I am a woman of the sea, I live in front of the sea and the opportunity that I had thanks to my work at the FLAG Costa Brava to get to know the fishing sector in Catalonia opened up endless possibilities for me to learn, work for and with the sector. Unfortunately, I know very well what it means when a municipality’s fishing activity disappears at the stroke of a pen with the excuse of progress; if you don’t, just ask the fishermen of Nerja (Malaga) and Calafell (Tarragona) – they will tell you.
After settling into the job, what will be your first priority?
The first weeks consist of learning in detail about the collaborative project between LIFE and the Marilles Foundation, in which, after an assessment carried out during 2019, some short- and medium-term actions are already being proposed. The following weeks will consist of getting to know all the actors in the Balearic Islands, especially the fishermen and the guilds (Cofradias). I am aware of some initiatives promoted by the fishermen’s associations of Ibiza, Sant Antoni and Formentera in collaboration with the Leader Action Group. I know this, because after a visit by fishermen from these associations to the Costa Brava in 2018, we established a close relationship.
In the coming years, development of the Blue Economy is likely to dominate the political and legislative agenda in the Mediterranean. What opportunities and threats does the Blue Economy represent to the small-scale fisheries sector?
In my opinion the blue economy as an opportunity for the coastal areas and seaboards of the Mediterranean to stop focusing their economy on tourism as they have done since the 1960s. Tourism is undoubtedly an economic engine, but it is very sensitive to situations that prevent people from travelling. We see this now with the pandemic that is affecting us, but also on previous occasions. The local economy of coastal municipalities must be based on the blue economy. Our job is to show that, within the blue economy, professional fishing, which includes small-scale fishermen, plays a fundamental role in the Mediterranean, that it is a real opportunity for the new generations and that, although their participation in the economy of scale is modest, it contributes to other socio-cultural and environmental factors necessary for the implementation of the blue and/or green economy on the Mediterranean coast. Fishermen are and will always be the guardians of the sea.
For more information contact: Brian O’Riordan, Executive Secretary LIFE, email@example.com.