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Relay4Nature hears how Spanish fishermen are fighting pollution

by The Ocean Race 20 Aug 2021 13:30 PDT
Relay4Nature hears how Spanish fishermen are fighting pollution © The Ocean Race

Nacho Llorca, the President of the Villajoyosa Fisherman's Association, shares how pollution is threatening the livelihoods of fishermen all over the world.

In Alicante, Spain, the home of The Ocean Race, Relay4Nature met with Nacho Llorca, the President of the Villajoyosa Fisherman's Association, to discuss the changes that he has seen in the ocean.

Having spent his whole life working at sea, Llorca offers a unique perspective when it comes to the huge increase in pollution that fishermen are currently witnessing, as well as the effect that this has had on fishing stocks.

"When I started to go out to sea, we used to collect rubbish in our nets and then just throw it back into the sea. This may seem like nonsense, but it was normal and we didn't see pollution as a problem back then." Llorca begins.

"If this carries on, we will reach a point of no return. There will be more pollution, more rubbish, less fish. We are always told that it is the fishermen's fault, but we believe that there are fewer fish because of the pollution. It is as simple as that."

Noticing the link between declining fish populations and a vast increase in pollution, Llorca decided to collect the rubbish that he was capturing in his nets, rather than throwing it back into the sea. The collected waste is used in the manufacturing of sustainable clothing from recycled ocean plastic, giving the rubbish a new lease of life on land.

"My idea was to convince other fishing fleets, and it was not easy as they didn't understand. They didn't feel that it was their job. I told them the truth - that the only people that make a living from what is in the sea are us, the fishermen. If we don't look after our environment, who else is going to do it?"

Since 2015, when Llorca first began the initiative, the fishermen of Villajoyosa have collected over 700 tonnes of rubbish from the ocean. Despite this, he speaks of his frustration at the lack of government policy and assistance.

"It is frustrating that none of the authorities recognise the work that we are doing for the ocean. We are not paid to do this, we do it for nothing."

"It is very important [that there is an international treaty against pollution], as we sometimes find rubbish that has come from other parts of the continent. If we don't manage this on a global scale, the rubbish gets caught in the currents and, if some countries don't collect rubbish and others do, the problem is never going to go away."

"I fought for this so that the sea could be better, not for me, but for future generations. My father passed the ocean on to me and I want to pass it on in good shape. I make my living from what lives in the sea. We need to keep it clean, as it is what provides my livelihood."

Contributing a message to Relay4Nature, which will be presented at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) later this year, Llorca urges decision-makers to put decisive policies in place to prevent pollution from ending up in the sea.

"If we as fishermen do not look after our own today, then we will not be able to earn a living tomorrow. So my message would be that all countries need to try harder. They need to stop this rubbish from ending up in the ocean. They need to let us continue to follow sustainable fishing and then support us to do that."

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