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Testimonial - Maria José Carmona

Testimonial - Maria José Carmona

Maria José Carmona
Marine Biologist

Looking for sustainability has been a constant effort for me through the education my family gave me, even though I’m convinced that my parents don’t know the meaning of the word itself.

I have a childhood memory from a young age of the selling, from illegal vans, of “chanquetes” (a small Mediterranean fish, Aphia minuta) and all other kinds of immature fish. I remember it was very common. I also remember being told in class about the problems with consuming immature fish, and since then, my sister and I refused to eat them. Then my mother stopped buying them, although they were still being served in bars. I also remember how my cousins would mock our not wanting to eat them, because they are delicious. However, when you are clear about something and know the right reasons these things do not affect you.

In short I´d like to see equilibrium between the survival of many marine species and their extraction from the environment, be it for consumption or any other non-food objectives.

The sea has always intrigued and fascinated me, and that’s why I studied marine sciences. Since I started working, I’ve dedicated myself to environmental education, trying to improve people’s knowledge about marine environments and promoting its conservation. For example I began an awareness campaign, which ran for several years, to promote the sustainable consumption of fish, paying special attention to the consumption of immature species.

The level of ignorance on the real state of our fisheries is quite shocking. We all know what the illegal practices are, but we do not recognise, or rather do not want to recognise the real impact they have on the marine environment.

It’s quite easy: be responsible and critical. We need to become more informed about the products we consume, not only with regards to our health, but also about the consequences our consumer habits have on the health of the environment that surrounds us. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of consumers, and, when possible, we should commit ourselves to initiatives that promote the conservation and recovery of our resources.

Government administration must enforce this, and create a different legal framework, because the current one only benefits some economic sectors. There are many social initiatives that try to change this situation, and we can and should join and support them.

Lately, and in my circle of friends, I’ve been trying to promote the idea of buying seafood products that are fresh and local, and of secondary commercial interest. There’s a plethora of different species and products we can find in our markets, but a tiny few garner the highest demand. Most often, it is these “queen of the market” species that are the most harmed in the ecosystems. Consuming less in-demand species therefore helps those overexploited ones to get a chance for recovery. Also, these other species are the ones that most frequently get discarded, and that we normally only find in local markets of coastal populations. These species are just as good, and often delicious, but are not as popular as octopus, tuna, monkfish or hake.