Friday, April 17, 2009

EU cuts Mediterranean tuna fishing

The Mediterranean tuna fishing season will be 15 days shorter this year with quotas and fleets also cut, EU sources said Wednesday: but environmentalists complained it was too little, too late.The bluefin fishing season begins officially on Thursday and will end on June 15, two weeks earlier than the scheduled 2008 season.At the same time the European Commission has reduced allowed quotas by 27 percent overall. It has also negotiated a cut in fishing capacity for the industrial fishing 'purse seiners' which use huge cylindrical nets to scoop up their catch.Last year's season was cut short when in mid-June the European Commission ordered a halt to industrial fishing of bluefin tuna two weeks early because quotas for 2008 had already been reached.Both France and Italy opposed that decision, questioning the commission's figures and saying that their fishing industries had not reached even half their quotas.The biggest fishing fleet reductions have been agreed by the biggest tuna fishing nations in the EU, with Italy scrapping 19 boats to leave a total of 68 and France getting rid of eight to leave a fleet of 36 purse seiners.Of the other European Union members only Spain and Malta retain smaller tuna fleets, which will remain unchanged, while Greece has recently scrapped the last of its tuna ships.The EU has also decided to freeze the capacity of tuna farms, mainly in Malta, and to boost inspections at sea to avoid the kind of fraud whereby fishing ships sell their wares to the farms before coming into port."It's the last chance" to avoid the end of Mediterranean bluefin tuna, which has been heavily overfished in the past, an EU official said.However he estimated that "scrapping another 10 vessels would help to eliminate overfishing."The lobby group Oceana saw the problem as much more serious, calling for "the immediate closure of the fishery, as stocks are condemned to collapse even if the fleet complies with 100 percent of the agreed quotas and management measures.""Over-exploitation, illegal fishing and the irresponsibility of the member states that reap the benefits from this fishery have taken this species to the brink of commercial collapse," said Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe."Under the leadership of the EU, a new recovery plan has been implemented in 2009 that once again ignores scientific recommendations," he added.

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