Antoni Abad is the president of the Federació Territorial de Confraries de Pescadors de Girona, one of the strategic partners of the LIFE ECOREST project.
The fishing sector is involved both in the rescue of corals and gorgonians, among other sessile organisms accidentally caught in their nets, and in the maintenance of these species in aquariums located in the fishermen’s communities. Its relationship with the scientific community and society is key.
Why did you get involved in this project?
We got involved in the project because we realised that it was an opportunity for the fishing sector. Firstly, to be able to help the regeneration or repopulation of corals in closed areas, but also to give added value to our fish, to our product. We want to reach the consumer so that, when they buy our fish, they see that behind it there is a heritage, a history, and the fishing sector contributes to marine conservation.
Is the fishing sector aware of marine conservation?
Yes, and even more so in Girona because we have already had many experiences. Perhaps not on the scale of this project, which is probably the largest in which we have participated, but we are very aware because, if we have a healthy sea, the sector will be viable.
Aquariums have been set up in the fishermen’s communities to recover corals and gorgonians caught accidentally. How have the fishermen welcomed this initiative?
It has been very well received. Moreover, it is something that we are going to try to make the most of. Our families, friends and all the visitors we have in the fishermen’s associations will be able to get to know the project. It is a key element for us that people can see the great work that fishermen do. Sometimes the sector has an image and it is not like that, and even less so in this case. We are in favour of and very conscious of being able to help, as far as possible, to restore these areas.
What is the importance of fish stocks in these areas?
We need two or three years to see how the management of these areas is going. I understand that if we have a closed area, the species will be comfortable and will be able to reproduce. Overall, we can see that it is a great experience. I am convinced that it will be for the good of the sector.
How is the collaboration between the scientific community and the fisheries sector?
This partnership is growing every day. In the past, scientists used to come, tell us what they had to explain and then leave. We didn’t see them any more, and sometimes they didn’t even listen. I have noticed a change in the scientific community, as well as in the fisherman. Now they come, they explain, they get involved, they give importance to the sector and they listen to us. In the long run, this makes the fishermen take ownership, collaborate, participate, feel comfortable and, in the end, it brings a combination of experiences from the scientific world and the fishing world that is always positive. We have learned a lot from the scientists and I know that they have also learned from us.