Today, 15 marine conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from Spain and Portugal met in Lisbon – in Ecologistas en Acción’s sailboat Diosa Maat and on Liga para a Protecção da Natureza’s headquarters – for the first time, to coordinate their work on key marine conservation issues. The Iberian sardine stock, the deep sea fishing opportunities and the full implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) were among the main topics discussed. As a result, a meeting will be requested to European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella. Many other joint actions are being planned, as well as a shared communication platform, in order to increase the joint capacity to deal with the environmental challenges that Iberian waters face.
Nature does not comply with man-made boundaries, and even less if we are talking about the ocean and marine life that inhabit it. Fishermen in general know this very well, but Portuguese and Spanish fishermen even more, because they share fishing stocks for as long as the records exist. The two countries are geographically, biologically, socially, economically and politically connected by the Atlantic Iberian waters.
Although Spanish and Portuguese NGOs have collaborated in the past on ocean conservation issues, it was the serious situation with the Iberian sardine stock that made clear that in many occasions, sustainable fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems in the region will only be possible if there is close and continuous cooperation between the NGOs from both countries. The visit of the sailboat Diosa Maat of Ecologistas en Acción to Lisbon created the perfect opportunity for the NGOs of the two countries to meet.
The organisations made a clear demand: “The Portuguese and Spanish Ministries have to take the lead in Europe by following the best available scientific advice and fully implement the Common Fisheries Policy, restoring and maintaining the fish populations at sustainable levels by 2020 ”.
Portugal and Spain have often been the less ambitious member states when it comes to respecting science and the CFP, and therefore, apart from several actions focusing on the ministries of the two countries, a meeting request will be sent to the EU Commissioner of the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in the coming days to discuss these issues of Iberian, and ultimately, of European concern.
The NGOs also agreed that the two countries need to be more pro-active in promoting sustainable management of small scale and encouraging low impact fisheries, as well as working together towards a sound management of Natura 2000 network. But the challenges that the Iberian waters face go far beyond fisheries. Marine litter, plans to extract oil and gas, unsustainable river basins management and pollution, among many others, also require joint actions. Therefore, as a main outcome of this first meeting, the Spanish and Portuguese marine NGOs agreed on a list of common issues they will follow with regular communications and events.