Meet Marcin Ruciński, LIFE’s new Baltic and North Sea Coordinator!
Brussels, 12 July 2016
The Low Impact Fishers of Europe have recently been granted funds by the European Commission to provide additional support to the low impact small-scale fleet working in the Baltic and North Sea. The first step of the two-years project has been recruiting a new member of staff to design and implement a specific strategy for the Region, coordinate the work between members, help local communities to set up new organisations and liaise with relevant institutions.
After a tough selection process, thanks to his extensive experience in fisheries management, high level language skills and most of all great enthusiasm, Marcin has been selected by the Board of Directors to become the new Coordinator! Learn more about him in our welcome interview!
Hello Marcin, and welcome to LIFE! How did you learn about the Platform and what motivated you to apply?
I have learned about the LIFE initiative back in 2012, in the midst of the CFP reform process. I was impressed by the synergy between promoting small-scale fisheries and conserving the environment, which LIFE so nicely encapsulates. As far as I know, no other fisheries or marine environment organisation in Europe does that. Also Jerry’s decades-long background as a professional small-scale fisherman makes the organization special. At a personal level, I needed a change from a civil servant’s life to something a bit more modern and very exciting!
You have more than 10 years of experience in the fisheries sector, with a special focus on Baltic and North Sea Countries. What are, according to you, the biggest challenges for the small-scale sector in the Region?
I think the challenges are best summarized by the word « competition », which has many facets here, such as:
- Competition to access fishing quotas with those more efficient and financially stronger;
- Competition for marine space with other users of the sea, such as all kinds of: energy generating installations, marine protected areas, army drill areas, sea tourism, marine transport, etc.
- Competition in product markets with the fish imported from outside the EU, as well as aquaculture products and fish caught by bigger fleets
- Last but definitely not least, competition with seagoing predators (seals, cormorants) in catching the fish.
In all these areas, I’ll do my best to be of help for small-scale low impact fishers of Baltic and North Sea!
You have worked both as Chair of the Fisheries Working Party of EU Council and Chair of Baltfish and Helcom Fish. Based on your experience, why is it important to bring the voice of small-scale fishers at institutional level, and how can this have an impact on the everyday life of coastal communities?
LIFE rightly points out that the 83% of Europe fishers are small-scale. Small-scale means, among others, being occupied with (or-overwhelmed by…) your business and making a decent living (or-a living…) in a highly competitive environment.
There’s very little or no time left for small scale fishers to successfully voice their concerns or make strong policy proposals at national or European level. The decision-makers in Brussels or national capitals are usually assisted by those voicing the concerns of larger-scale fleets, who can afford being professionally represented in the right places.
To be sure: there’s nothing wrong with that – as long as decision-makers have the full picture, including the knowledge of what small-scale fishers think and want. That’s why I think that what LIFE does has so much relevance. And I am happy to contribute to this process personally. It will surely result in CFP rules being more tailored to small-scale fishers’ needs.
As the new Coordinator for the Baltic and North Sea, what will be your priorities and strategy to reinforce the network between the fishers of the Baltic and North Sea?
I basically see two main priorities: understand in-depth main concerns of small-scale fishers of Baltic and North Sea through intensive contacts, and then taking these concerns to the right fora and people with the decision-making system, at EU or national level.
I hope that, if the fishers’ concerns are taken into account by the decision-makers, the benefits of being part of LIFE will become self-evident. This would, hopefully help in expanding our regional network. Being just a few days in a new position, one has to assume some flexibility and patience as to how these priorities are implemented in detail.
Selling the product at a fair price is vital for small-scale producers. According to you what is the place of small-scale businesses within the bigger market? What is the role of consumers’ education in this respect?
Luckily, the markets for fish are quite diverse and have many different segments. Not all of us like Pangasius, right? I think that, from the small-scale fishers’ perspective, it is important to define the best market niche for them and do everything possible to establish strong presence within it. There is a number of clear advantages of the product offered by small-scale fishers: it’s super-fresh, it’s caught sustainably and low-impact, it’s local, it’s traditional. Just how to exploit these advantages in local conditions of say, Southern Sweden, Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Poland, The Netherlands, Bornholm, Mecklemburg-Vorpommern or Baltic States – we need to see. There are encouraging examples from some of these regions, often using most modern technologies to quickly reach the consumer willing to pay extra for top-quality fish.
I am sure LIFE has lots of work to do here. The key point of departure must be: fishing for value, as opposed to fishing for volume.
Part of your role is meeting with fishing communities, listening to their problems and advocating for their rights where decisions are made. Did you already plan which will be the first communities that you are going to meet?
My plans are focused on the agendas of the upcoming BSAC and BALTFISH meetings. We have a crisis situation with the Western Baltic cod stock, where ICES is advising a cut in fishing opportunities of 93%! This needs urgent attention and strong response from LIFE. Livelihoods of our Members are at stake here. We also need to keep a weather eye on the Eastern cod stock, where scientists can’t get out of uncertainty for too long – and we must avoid repeating the Western cod situation at all cost. My intention is to personally meet all the LIFE Members, in the time and the format that’s most appropriate for them!
♦ ♦ ♦