One of the most efficient ways of defining the freedom of speech is the word “demonstration”. I always admired the march of people who are finding a peaceful way of expressing their view on different issues, even when I disagree with their opinion. So it was a pleasant surprise for me this last Sunday to stumble upon a demonstration on one of the main boulevards of Madrid, Gran Via. The issue in cause: the freedom to fish, and sometimes release, a number of predator fishes in the Spanish rivers. I tried to find out more about the debate, and these were my findings.
Thousands of fishermen and hunters gathered Sunday, 5th of June to protest against a Decision taken by the Supreme Court of Spain in which a number of fish species was added to an existing list of predators that need to be exterminated. The Courts’ decision comes after pressure from ecologist groups which claim that predator fishes that were introduced in Spanish rivers in the 50’s put in danger local environments.
The list, The Catalog of Exotic Invasive Species, did not include until the Courts’ decision the rainbow trout, the carp or the black bass. The modification to the law results in the interdiction of raising or selling the species on the list, but also forbids the release of the catch by sport fishermen who so far have had this practice of catch and release. The law requires the person who catches one of these fishes to kill them, in order to exterminate them from the environment.
The representatives of the Spanish Hunting Federation argues that a number of the species included have been part of the local ecosystems for thousands of years. Furthermore, they claim that the economic effects of the law will cause massive job losses and more than 3.000 million euros will be lost from the loss of business. Among their slogans one could find things like: “Assassin ecologists” (“ecologistas asesinos”) and “How many times have you seen an ecologist cleaning rivers?” (“cuántas veces habéis visto a los ecologistas limpiando ríos”).
Looking for information about the opposite stance of the Ecologist groups was not so easy to find in articles about the demonstration. In order to see the scientific data references and their credibility I had to look up the official page of the organization “Ecologistas en acción”. Here one can find quotes from scientists who’ve done research of the effects of exotic fish species in Spanish Eco systems. Their manifest for the creation of the Catalog of Exotic Invasive Species is signed by a large number of scientist and major institutions.
There’s only so much one can find out from the internet, but it seems to me like the media could do more to explain and unfold this issue. The demonstration, as I saw it live, was not a small one, yet I cannot wonder if the economy and personal pleasure of the hunter are the main reasons for protesting against this decision. There’s no doubt about the effects of the law in regards to the fish industry, but isn’t it more important to maintain the biodiversity of the rivers?