We are artisans

somos artesanos 1
somos artesanos 2
somos artesanos 3
somos artesanos 4
If being an artisan means feeling in your own hands nature and raw materials, then we fishermen not only feel this, it is also in our genes
According to the European Union, “artisanal coastal fishing” is the fishing activity carried out by boats under 12 metres overall length using fishing techniques different to bottom trawling.

However, this definition does not match the concept of artisanal fishing as it is seen in the Canary Islands, where such is carried out by boats under 15 metres, using selective and quality techniques excluding bottom trawling, and with fishing activity undertaken relatively close to the coast, at distances under 12 nautical  miles.

Beyond the length of the boats, the fishing activities in the Canaries hold environmental, social and  economic specific features which, besides the narrow insular shelf, the oligotrophic (low level of nutrients) nature of these waters and the preeminence of abrupt seabeds, prevent an exploitation of marine resources based solely on artisanal fishing techniques (Galvan, 1982).

Due to the proximity of the fishing grounds, the tidal fishing trips by the fleet occur on a daily basis. Depending on the fishing technique to be used, the fishermen go out into the sea at dawn or at dusk, coming back onshore approximately five to seven hours later. Sometimes, if the day ‘the day doesn´t pay’ and the weather and tides allow it, they would come back, change the fishing gear, and sail off again. Anyway, the journey will not end when they come back to the shore, as usually, after a well deserved rest, they would come back to the harbour to repair and set the gear for the next day of work.

Special mention for the tuna fish season tides, when at sunset the fleet sails off for live bait (sardine, mackerel), as this is the only way to capture tuna, and comes back at midnight, to sail off again at sunset in search for the tuna shoal. Once spotted the school, tuna is fished one by one using rods, until the bait runs out. After downloading the catch, the crew will rest for just a few hours, as they must set off again to obtain live bait to be used for fishing the so much valued tuna, circumstances that may go on for longer than ten days, as long as the migration of the fish by the island takes.

As it happens in other professions, there are different certificates amongst fishermen (skipper, sailor, engine driver), being the skipper who decides the way and fishing operations to be carried out. However, the profit sharing takes place on an equal share basis or ‘a la parte’: once deducted the costs raised from the use of the ship, the profit is shared amongst the crew in equal parts.

Environmental, social and economic features of fishing activities in the Canaries

Environmental aspects:

  • High selectivity
  • Low or null percentage of discards
  • Low direct impact on the ecosystem
  • Very low CO2 levels
  • Low scale of production and technical development
  • Deep knowledge of the ecosystem involving fishermen
Social aspects:

  • Strong ties to the communities
  • Deep social roots
  • Division of labour held to a minimum
  • High grade equity
Economic aspects:

  • Important contribution to the coastal areas economic and social fabric
  • Short commercial cycles
  • Thinly capitalized companies