Spanish tuna fleet requests government vaccination priority for seafarers | 16 February 2021
The Spanish tuna fleet has requested the government and the autonomous communities to recognise the crew members as an essential group and to have priority access to vaccines against the coronavirus, once the vaccination process for high-risk groups has been completed.
Specifically, the sector bases this demand on the resolution adopted on December 1 by the UN General Assembly to urge its member states to recognise essential workers for seafarers and other maritime personnel, a decision that 45 countries had already adopted by the end of 2020, according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
“The vaccination of crew members on fishing boats is as essential as their work, since in the first semester the Spanish tuna fleet will have to relieve 1,200 crew members,” said Julio Morón, managing director of the Organisation of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Vessels Freezers (Opagac).
Morón has advanced that the tuna fleet is facing an exercise that will continue to be marked by difficulties in developing relief operations for its crew due to the need to guarantee their health and safety and due to the mobility restrictions imposed by the coronavirus.
In this sense, the fleet will maintain its focus of prioritising these aspects contemplated in the social aspect of its certificate of Responsible Fishing Tuna (APR) and with which it supports the global sustainability of its activity.
The sector estimates that during the first half of this year it will have to relieve a total of approximately 1,200 crew members, of whom about 650 are foreigners and 550 Spanish. These relays will be carried out primarily in the base ports of Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Victoria (Seychelles) and Manta (Ecuador) and in
accordance with the strict protocol designed by the fleet, in collaboration with the health authorities of the countries in which it operates, as well as those of origin and destination of the fishermen.
On the other hand, the fleet has warned of the negative impact that the pandemic is having on the balance of fishing resources due to the distortions that the ‘digital’ celebration of the main meetings of the Regional Fisheries Organisations (RFOs), responsible for defining the fisheries management standards, as well as for the relaxation of control measures, including the suspension of observer programmes.
In this way, Opagac urges the holding of virtual meetings that allow monitoring the effectiveness of the measures and the review of scientific recommendations, in addition to providing transparency to the decision-making process both to the parties contractors as well as observers.
Thus, the most urgent measures to be adopted correspond to ICCAT in relation to bigeye tuna and to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (CTOI) in relation to yellowfin.
On the other hand, Opagac has pointed out the limitations to move around the world make crew change operations “very difficult”, not only for sailors, but also for observers, which may pose a risk of the relaxation of control measures by temporary suspension of the obligation to embark observers adopted by some RFOs.
“The global alert generated by the pandemic is testing the robustness of the sustainability strategy on which we base our activity on both the environmental and social aspects. For this reason, governments and fisheries authorities must collaborate with fishermen to find the balance between guaranteeing the
conservation of stocks and the safety and well-being of the crews,” Morón stressed.