From 21 to 23 October 2014, Blue Fish Europe organized a photo exhibition in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, entitled Coast to Coast. The exhibition featured around 20 pictures from Vince Bevan (a photographer from the UK) and from Lionel Flageul (a photographer from France), showcasing European fishermen at work. In addition to the photos, the exhibition included specialised fishing equipment including netting, which fishermen used to demonstrate how selectivity could be improved thanks to square mesh panels. The exhibition was hosted by three Members of the European Parliament, Isabelle Thomas (France), Richard Corbett (United Kingdom) and José Blanco López (Spain). Fishermen from France, Spain, Portugal and the UK were also present to engage in an open dialogue with European decision-makers and demonstrate the best practices they implement every day to make sustainable fishing a reality on the coasts of Europe. The exhibition received lots of attention throughout the busy plenary week of the European Parliament.
The highlight of the exhibition was a cocktail and seafood tasting reception organized on 22 October. Around 300 people gathered to sample oysters, scallops, langoustines and fish rillettes from the French and Spanish coast. The reception was a moment of warm exchange and dialogue between the fishermen and numerous MEPs from the PECH Committee and beyond. The three co-hosting MEPs were joined by Olivier Le Nezet, President of Blue Fish, Francisco Javier Touza, President of ARVI (Cooperativa de Armadores de Pesca de Vigo), Mike Park, Chief Executive Officer of The Scottish Whitefish Producers Association and Claude Allan, vice-president of the urban community of Boulogne-sur-Mer, to welcome the guests.
Both the MEPs and the professionals highlighted the importance of working together to promote sustainable and responsible fisheries, and welcomed Blue Fish’s initiative to bring the realities of the sector to Strasbourg. They recalled the active economic and social contribution of fisheries in Europe, which employs 5.6 million people working at sea, in processing plants, in port management, ship owners, restaurants and many more. Speakers also highlighted the importance of policy-makers and professionals from different maritime regions coming together at European level to work on issues and challenges which are often the same across local communities. Indeed, as Mike Park pointed out: “in order to have the stability they need, fishermen themselves need to come together to develop and implement the sustainable fishing practices they need for the future” while MEPs welcomed testimonies from those who live and experience the Common Fisheries Policy every day.
Overall, the event was a great success, and demonstrated that an open and constructive dialogue between decision-makers and fisheries professionals is possible. Both sides were happy that the two worlds could meet, and hope that such initiatives will be repeated regularly, to continue fostering strong working relationships throughout the next five years.