EU - The European fishing sector is to make a concerted bid to boost the image of the industry in the eyes of consumers and European governments.
The move follows a survey conducted among consumers that showed that the majority believe that the fishing industry has a vital role to play in feeding a growing world population.
The survey has been conducted for the European fishing industry organisation Europêche, which is concerned that the sector is not receiving fair assistance from the European authorities compared to other food producing sectors.
The survey showed that 71 per cent of those questions felt that the fishing industry has a vital role to, play, but it also showed that 84 per cent believed that governments should do more to support the sector.
Speaking during the European Seafood Expo in Brussels, Javier Garat, the president of Europêche said that despite contributing €71.3 billion to the European economy just 1.7 per cent of the EU’s budget in 2014 for sustainable growth in natural resources was allocated to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
This compared to 97.5 per cent that was allocated to European Agriculture.
He said that the fisheries sector received just €1 billion compared to €57 billion for the agriculture sector.
“There is not a level playing field, particularly when 71 per cent of people believe the industry plays a vital role,” said Mr Garat.
He added that the industry has to make good use of the money it does receive to improve the image of the industry among consumers and also to work more closely with scientists to improve the industry in the market.
“There has been a lack of good management in the past and the EU Fisheries Fund is important in improving the image and working with the scientists,” said Mr Garat.
Kathryn Stack, the Europêche managing director said: “The survey clearly shows that Europeans recognise the importance of the fishing industry both to their daily diets but also as part of feeding a growing world population
“Fishing is a heavily regulated industry and the fishermen we represent have made huge strides in recent years, not only to comply with the new European regulations but secure the sustainability of fishing practices and in turn, their livelihoods.”
Mr Garat added that one of the problems with the image of the sector was that the industry was over-fishing the oceans and this image had been made worse by some campaign groups.
He said the true picture was that the fish stock around the world were largely health and improving and the industry worked closely with environmental organisations to ensure the sustainability of the stocks.
He said that there are a lot of stocks that are fully exploited – meaning that they were being fished sustainably – and some stocks that were under exploited, which meant that they could be fished more.
He added that the stocks that were over exploited were now falling and the industry was working to ensure they are managed sustainably.
He said the survey showed that more than half of those questioned believed fish stocks are in serious decline but Mr Garat said that this was a serious misconception.
“The consumers need information to be able to correct these ideas,” said Mr Garat.
“It is not just a question of economic support it is also a question of information.”