According to Greenpeace, which investigated on the fishing industry, the situation of the marinebiodiversity is really worrying owing to an overexploitation. Indeed, there is an inadequacy between this kind of exploitation and the capacities of the nature to provide enough fish. Moreover, the non-profit organization points out a chain of responsibility where many economic and politic actors are involved, especially the Vidal Armadores group, a Spanish company ran by the family Vidal. As a consequence, we are going to analyze the egregious actions of this company from the point of view of ethic. Then, we will see how we could change or adjust these actions in order to respect the principles of ethic.
We will use this graph to highlight and to name the unethical actions of the Vidal group. In addition, this graph enables us to make categories to see more clearly the actors, the facts and the impacts. This is a first step to understand what is unethical and how to change it.
Vidal group managed by Manuel Antonio Vidal Pego is accused by Greenpeace to overexploit the sea products. As a matter of fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg because it has consequences/ collateral effects on the other artisanal fishermen. The Vidal group or in general, the industrial fishing group, exceed their quotas and receive more financial resources from the European government (graph 3), whereas they don’t respect the laws and are fewer. We can see two kinds of problem, that is to say inequality and no sustainability. This is a piece among others in the complex patchwork of the pirate fishing. The legal framework is established by the PCP (fishing common politic) which is not respected, but the law institutions (Spanish and European government) didn’t sue the rogue companies until now (2011). M. Antonio Vidal Pego has been sentenced recently to one year and eight months in prison because one of his vessels fished in protected Antarctic waters in December 2005. So, why a such state action from Spain, so long after his repeated abuses since 1999? Therefore, it concerns the statute law and the authorities. In addition, we need to know that the Spanish fishing industry (24.2 % in tones of the European fleet) is the biggest in Europe, so its actions have a deep impact on the planet, that’s why we can’t focus only on the Vidal group.
We will study firstly the exactions of Vidal group and then the other actors as we can notice on the second graph (pyramid).First of all, the company has frequently exceed its quotas, falsified some documents, fished protected species, trespassed laws of a lot of countries, violated contracts, unloaded fish…this list is really long and we are astonished that they were not condemned sooner by the Spanish government.
So, Greenpeace pointed its finger at the Vidal group not just because it doesn’t respect the laws and the environment, but also because the company has an offshoot around the world in many countries under other names. The Vidal family is at the top of the hierarchy, they draw the strategy and they are shareholders in other companies. So, not just the structure is targeted.
In addition, six boats of the Vidal family were put on a black list of many organizations, whose the purpose is to enforce the law on the sea; being on a black list has several consequences like a loss of the fishing license. This fact didn’t stop these boats to continue, which put them in an illegal situation.
Some of the Vidal’s boats have been inspected, the ship’s company arrested because they used forbidden fishing materials, exceed the quotas, fished in protected zones; they have also stopped some inspections. Moreover, some of the family’s members of M.A Vidal Pego have been condemned to pay a fine like his son Antonio Vidal Suarez who had to give 2,7 million Euros.
The Vidal company is not alone and many other industrial fishing groups act like it.
Many other industrial fishing group as OPAGAC, Grupo Oya Pérez, Pescanova group are responsible of exactions in the seas. They are illegal competitors and consequently, that makes this competition unfair. They receive also funds from the European government and they take a part of fish which is owned by the small fishermen. Moreover, they pollute their working conditions. These companies are not different compared to the Vidal group, if we take a look at their actions, but shorter. Its behaviors are unethical because this situation is not livable, fair and durable.
We need to distinguish state actions from Spain, Europe and the other countries because the United States, for instance, punished the Vidal group with 400 000 dollars fine because it tried to import illegally protected species. So, we can’t call into question the role of the states in that situation, but we can criticize the Spanish and European governments which have fund the rogue group knowing its exactions. Some aspects are involved as law (justice) and equality. In that perspective, we can accuse the Spanish state to be compliant and even accomplice. Its inaction is nor socially and politically responsible, neither environmentally responsible. The state has to protect its current and future citizens from a lake of food; this state softness in unethical because its inactions are in discrepancy with its role and the idea of justice. As a consequence, it didn’t avoid the side effects of overexploitation, diminution of protected species, pollution, economical difficulties of small fishermen and diplomacy problems.
Behind the Spanish government is the European state because it continues to give funds to the Spanish fishing groups in illegal situation. Moreover, the statute law in effect is not enough efficient and let them to slip through the net. So, the problem that we try to point out is not any more about just to enforce the law, but to put into effect relevant laws.
Finally, we can’t blame the states without to wonder if we are also responsible, because we have to be conscious of our role in this political situation; we vote for people who represent us and decide of the countries ‘destiny. The bottom line/the core of the problem is here also inaction and we can’t discharge our duties entirely, overlook politicians’ decisions and exactions around us. So having a blindfold behavior (not just being unconscious) is unethical. We can also add the employees of the group even if they don’t have probably a large choice of jobs, but they are involved. So, they are participating to these exactions. In my opinion, their case is more complicated than we could think, and we are conscious that their behaviors are dulled by the discrepancy between the fact to earn money in order to eat and to have a better planet.
The change is possible only if the companies act differently in starting with other layers of the corporate social responsibility. First, they need to be profitable (we know it’s not a problem for the industrial fishing companies), then to respect the law which is really important because they can’t be ethic without this legal aspect. Then, after adopting ethic behavior, it will have a positive impact on society.
In order to persuade the companies to respect the law, governments should re-think their funds or more precisely the mechanism which is built. They should give the financial resources in exchange of an agreement with the fishing companies.
They can receive it only if they respect the contract which stipulates that the environment need to be protected. That’s why the quotas are a sine qua non condition to perceive funds. An expert supervisor should verify regularly the conformity of the companies’ behaviors in order to decide if they can continue to perceive the aids. It should force the rogue companies to change, but it can’t succeed without a kind of collaboration.
Another point to develop is the culture within the organization, to make the employees/leaders responsible because they act in some regions of the world where we can’t keep an eye on them. It is an idealistic vision that companies apply every rule, but if it is mentioned in a contract, they could educate, spread with the employees many values in adequacy with ethic.
In this situation, we (Spain government) should also to substitute the Vidal family by other leaders working for the government as long as the previous conditions are not established within this organization. Indeed, we saw that the family was a reason of the problem of unethical behaviors. Consequently, the government should act on this issue.
To conclude, we can say that this situation is really complex owing to an interlacing of different aspects of ethic and actors. This case won’t change rapidly; it will be long to change mentalities, to vote and enforce laws, to give to the small fishermen means to be on an equal footing with the industrial fishing companies. Nevertheless, ethic is perhaps more the path rather than the result.