We spoke to Inma from the LEADER Local Action Group of Ibiza and Formentera, a project funded by the European Union. This group collaborates with the fishing technicians of the Consell de Ibiza. It is tasked with preventing the loss of traditional fishing due to the lack of generational respite.
Who is licensed to fish in Pitiusa (Ibiza and Formentera) waters?
Inma – Ibiza has a traditional fleet, the so-called ‘llaut’, a wooden boat between 9 and 12 meters in length and symbolic of the islands. This fleet, which is made up of both the ‘llauts’ and trawlers, is the only one that has permission to fish at a depth ranging between 50 and 150 metres. In order to protect the posidonia and the habitats within, it is forbidden to trawl above a depth of 50 metres.
Additionally, there is a fleet of 42 trawlers from the peninsula that is allowed to fish beyond a depth of 150 metres. These boats mostly fish for shrimp of different varieties and some other bottom fish. Of this catch one part is sold in Ibiza and the rest is sent in trucks to the peninsula.
Moreover, there is a fleet of tuna fishing boats from Alicante that arrives on Sunday night and returns to base on Friday.
Is trawling avoidable?
Inma – It is clear that this practice is very aggressive at an ecological level. From an economic perspective, however, and given the way that we live, trawling is necessary since traditional fishing cannot meet the market requirements. The ‘confradias’ (fishermen’s communities) depend on fish caught through trawling. So what we need to focus on is ways to ensure that it causes the least harm possible.
Tell us about the first project you worked on “the gerret” (whitebait)
Inma – The first project in which I participated was the ‘Recovery of Monitoring the Gerret Fishing Fleet Project’ which arose due to a 2006 European level regulation prohibiting all trawling above 50 metres. The fishing season of the “gerret” lasts from October 15th to April 15th. Fishing for gerret is very unique, as it is done by means of ‘trawling’ in less than 50 metres. Although a priori, this practice may seem very aggressive, it is a fishing craft that is carried out with a net launched to encircle the shoal (fish bank) and drags without touching the seabed or damaging the posidonia since it is a process carried out on sand.
Due to European legislation, an exception to this rule is requested by the Balearic Islands, which envisages granting such an exception to an autonomous community provided that a management committee is set up to carry out monthly assessments on how the fishing is carried out.
European legislation specifies that trawling can only take place in specific locations ensuring that they are safe and clean. This proved to be a greater problem since there were no maps of the island specifying which areas were intended for professional fishermen and which areas were intended for recreational fishing, which in summer makes it very difficult to fish for many other species. Thus, from the Consell and the Local Action Group a project was initiated to map the fishing areas of Ibiza and Formentera.
This work was carried out with the help of all active fishermen and those who had recollection of where the fixed nets were located and where the trawling nets were thrown. Currently this information is being incorporated into nautical charts so that it is made available publicly.
How are fishing quotas established?
In order to establish the “gerret” fishing quotas a thorough study of the state of the population was carried out and as a result of this the ‘quartiles’ were created. This system states that each vessel has a minimum and a maximum catch which is not achieved is an indication that the “gerret” population is not healthy. The annual maximum is 30,000 kilos for the entire fleet and 800 kilos per boat per week maximum. This means that if in a single day a fisherman’s catch is 800 kilos, then the weekly quota has been reached and the fisherman cannot fish again that week.
It was then evaluated on a monthly basis that if the minimum amount was reached, the fisherman could continue to fish based on the premise that if in a month that level was not reached, a day of fishing was deducted in order to relieve the pressure on the fish population.
What project are you working on at the moment?
Inma – In collaboration with the tourism department, we have a project underway studying the “Verderoles”, the young amberjacks, whose traditional fishing is also being lost while recreational fishing of this species is quite elevated. The problem, similar to that of tuna, is with the ‘seiners’ that are licensed industrial vessels and that search for large shoals of fish by means of GPS. Once the shoal is located, they encircle it between 2 or 3 of these boats and close it with the nets extracting every fish they can in a single day thus impacting traditional fishing.
With regards to tuna fishing, how do permits work?
Inma – Tuna fishing has quotas allocated from the Central Government at the beginning of each year. These quotas, as is the case in Ibiza, have to be met as otherwise they can be withdrawn. They do, however, face the same problem as with ‘seiners’, since the larger tuna fishing boats can catch considerable amounts of fish in one go.
What can you tell us about the local lobster?
Inma – There is currently no strict regulation on lobster, mainly because the Balearic Islands are one of the few productive lobster fishing grounds in the Western Mediterranean.
The canal between Mallorca and Menorca is a highly productive area that is being ‘exploited’ in a disproportionate manner. The two islands operate on an auction basis which is not the case in Ibiza and Formentera. The advantage of this is that it protects this sector by adding value to its work, while the disadvantage of not having auctions in the Pitiusa islands (Ibiza & Formentera) is competition in the market price.
As a result, the Consell of Ibiza started the first labelling campaign of the Balearic Islands, with a distinctive tag. This initiative was extended, by Peix Nostrum, to all fish/seafood above 1 kg in weight, to distinguish them from those used in Mallorca or Menorca. The tags used in Ibiza have the logos of ‘Peix Nostrum/Ibiza Sabors‘ printed on them. This means that any fish that does not carry these labels/tags has not been caught by the fishermen’s cooperatives or does not originate from Ibiza. Therefore when we want to taste the local Bullit de Peix, a paella or simply the fresh catch of the day, we can ask to see the fish with its tag, or failing that, just the tag. It is a way to overcome misleading advertising.
Is it obligatory to be part of the ‘confradia’ (fishermen’s cooperative)?
Inma – Yes, every fisherman has to be a member of one of the two cooperatives (Ibiza or San Antonio) if he is a professional fisherman.
How can the consumer identify which fish is fresh and local?
Inma – As mentioned previously, local fish can be identified by means of the label/tag. Additionally, there are plans for Peix Nostrum to provide signs for restaurants that purchase fish from Ibiza on a regular basis. The chef will not necessarily always buy fish from Ibiza or in the case of the Bullit de Peix that is made with different parts of the fish, it may not be possible to see the tag. Despite this labelling system, there are many people on the island who buy fish from poachers which indirectly harms the trade of professional fishermen. This was witnessed during the lockdown, with a considerable increase in sales since only professional fishermen were allowed out to fish.
I would like to quote a phrase by a fisherman from Cabo de Gata ‘We have to eat fish with heads‘, which is an obvious pun. The intention of the phrase is the literal meaning which is the fact that you need to see the whole fish. The next time you visit a local fish restaurant take a minute to think about a local sustainable food system before placing your order.