As a student we dealt with the word ‘sustainability’ often. However, the more working experience I have, the more I find that trying to pin down the meaning of the word ‘sustainability’ is like trying to contain water in a fishing net. Striving for sustainable use of our marine environment is a noble cause, yet sustainability is impossible to achieve for sustainable actions depend on individual perceptions of the desired future situation. Cultural and professional background, education, living situation and even culinary preferences influence what one perceives to be sustainable. Sustainability isn’t a situation, it’s an opinion.
Using the Common Fisheries Policy as a management tool to obtain sustainability is like handing out a recipe. A recipe is nothing more than a standardised way of doing things, which leaves out the human aspect of being able to change the recipe. Adding or leaving out ingredients might lead to something tastier or healthier.
Sure, our recipe will add up to something we call sustainability, a general idea of whatever that should be… but is it truly spectacular? No. Is it supported by the entire industry? No. I believe that the key to ensuring a healthy marine environment is not as much in managing maximum size of ships and minimum mesh sizes, but in managing people. Trusting entrepreneurs to change the recipe. Encouraging consumers to try the unknown. And keeping an eye on the outcome, not on the ingredients.
In an attempt to canalise the different takes on sustainability, we lose sight of individual efforts and in some cases do more harm than good, despite having the best intentions. Dutch studies show that the most important factor when it comes to sustainable fishing is the fisherman himself. The size of the fishing vessel, the fishing method, marine protected areas… they are all way less important than the mentality of the skipper determining the course. A beam trawler can be more sustainable than a hand-held fishing rod. A large freeze-trawler can do far less harm than the tiniest fishing vessels, depending on how it’s managed. Decisions made by the fishermen determine the future of fish stocks. As the most important factor, we should cherish our fishermen and help them make the best decisions.
My project focusses mainly on social innovation, taking on subjects that are daring, innovative and challenge the status quo. In my work with (mostly young) fishermen, I hope to provide them with the feeling that they can, may and sometimes should change the recipe, in order to create something truly spectacular.
The EC, through the INSEPARABLE campaign, seeks to raise awareness of the Common Fisheries Reform, and promote the participation of everyone towards more sustainable seafood consumption.
Dialogue, critical thinking and individual opinions are necessary and positive contributions if we want to collectively act in our daily lives to make seafood production and consumption more sustainable.
The EC welcomes all respectful testimonials but does not endorse nor accept responsibility over any particular opinions contained herein.