Johan Baaij is a Dutch fisher involved in GAP2’s work in the Netherlands. Having taken part in both GAP2’s exchange to Canada, and the return exchange where representatives from the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (a unique partnership between fishers, scientists and the Canadian Government) came to the Netherlands, he now blogs about his experiences.
To read other GAP2 exchange blogs, click here.
I was very excited when I heard the news that our friends from Canada were coming to the Netherlands. You might wonder why I was so excited? Well, I had our visit in May last year in mind when we, the Dutch delegation of the GAP2 program (Rene Sperling, Marloes Kraan and myself) visited Canada.
Problems and solutions
Rene and I are two young Dutch fishermen and we saw a lot of similarities between our fishery and theirs. Such as problems with new young fishermen who chose another job and not the most beautiful job on earth (fishing!). Partly they step out because of the negative publicity surrounding the sector. This is of course also our own fault. But times are tough in fisheries. There are low prices for the fish and high costs for the boat; leaving not so much profit for the crew. I think there is a solution, however, and that is that fishermen should cooperate more! When you work together you have one voice to your government and one voice to the consumer.
The first steps are that we need to work together with scientists. Of course we will not have solutions in one month, but for instance in the Dutch case-study we are now working with the discard samples, and the fishermen know what they are doing and what for. With this project we help the scientists with fishermen’s knowledge. And in Canada, with the lobster fishery, we also saw positive outcomes from working together. In the CFRN (Canadian Fisheries Research Network) fishermen are also working together with scientists, with fishers offering advice and exchanging ideas on how to solve problems.
Why is GAP2 important?
I feel GAP2 is important because we, the fishermen, talk the same language. That is one thing I keep in mind. Most of the time scientists and people of the government are talking about the thoughts of fishermen. But fishermen need to be included! And yes, I know fishermen are always at sea, but that is exactly why we must work together. Fishermen nowadays are more than sea-faring men. We also have a future to think about and we must start dealing with the thousands of different views about our sea and fish. That is also a reason to work together. So whenever there are meetings about us or the use of the ocean, we can send one or two fishermen and they are our voice! And GAP2 is a tool to make this happen.
The last day of the Canadian visit we invited the Canadian group to come on board of our vessel, the TH10. I realized that when we were in Canada, we were interested in their solutions and their fisheries, but they were also interested in our beautiful innovative fishery. The stories to be told to each other in a week like this are interesting. The sense ‘clicking’ with someone with such similar experiences to yourself is something you have to experience to understand, I think. We learnt that there are also things we can do better here in Holland. For instance they were asking us to tell more about how we have organized the young fishermen.
After the fishing trip we were also invited to come to the discussion afternoon at IMARES. Of course this is ‘letters food’. But I also saw how fishermen, even coming from other countries, think more alike. There was a discussion between scientists about fishermen and their behaviour that didn’t go down well with some of the fishermen. We talked about it, as fishers, expressing why we think the opinion of the scientist is different as to how we see it, and we talked about it with the scientists. And then we realised that we meant the same but we talk differently!! So we learn from each other and we come closer again! Scientists and fishermen.
The Canadians asked whether we want to help young fishermen in Canada. Of course we would like that! It is important to help each other around to world. Some problems are different so some solutions also; but when we come closer we have a beautiful planet with fish and fishery!
For me this was again a great learning process and I hope the word is spread. GAP is one step, but I think it is one big step for all!