Several thousand striking fishermen from across Spain, as well as some of their counterparts from France, Italy and Scotland, protested outside the Ministry of Agriculture in Madrid, yesterday.
The strikers handed out 20 tonnes of fresh fish to alert the public to the problems they faced.
The Spanish fishermen’s 100% solid national strike added the weight of Europe’s largest fishing fleet to growing protests over soaring fuel prices, alongside counterparts in Italy and Portugal.
‘Compliance is total. The entire Spanish coast is at a halt,’ said Jose Caparros, a spokesman for the fishing industry in Barcelona.
The action came after more than two weeks of protests by French fishermen who have blocked access to oil depots and severely disrupted cross-Channel ferry traffic to push their call for financial assistance to offset fuel costs.
The Spanish Fisheries Confederation (SFC) is seeking talks with the government
SFC secretary general Javier Gavat said: ‘This is the worst crisis in the industry in 100 years. We are demanding a workable plan with short, medium and long-term measures.’
The rapid rise of oil prices has pushed up the cost of marine diesel by around 30% since the beginning of the year, causing trawler owners to warn they face bankruptcy without increased subsidies.
In Portugal, a similar strike call also drew a strong response yesterday.
‘No single boat has gone out,’ said national federation of fishing unions leader Antonio Macedo.
Association of Portuguese trawler owners spokesman Antonio Miguel Cunha said the action would continue until a fair resolution had been reached.
Italian fishermen also went on strike, vowing to stay in port until Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia agreed to meet with them.
Spokeswoman of the largest fishing union, Federcoopesca, Alessandra Fabri said: ‘We estimate at between 11,000 and 12,000 the number of fishermen on strike.
‘The action is being observed in the Marche and Molise’ regions on Italy’s central and southern Adriatic coast.
Rome’s Lazio region also saw strike action, with fishermen in Anzio occupying parts of the port and unfurling protest banners on their boats.
In France, which has been at the vanguard of the protests, trawlers blocked the Channel port of Le Havre and also sought to close an oil depot on the Mediterranean coast before police moved in to clear the demonstrators.