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20th Sep 2019

Mediterranean tuna fishery reduced, but not banned

Threatened bluefin tuna stocks in the Mediterranean won a reprieve although not a ban on the fishery from EU ministers on Monday (27 October), who agreed to a common position on fishing for tuna ahead of an international meeting on the conservation of Atlantic tuna next month.

Fisheries ministers, meeting in Luxembourg requested the European Commission press for greater protection for the tuna at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, from 17-24 November.

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ICCAT manages regional fisheries, including Mediterranean bluefin tuna stocks.

The ministers are wiling to accept reduced quotas for the tuna, a shortened fishing season and increased controls, but ruled out a complete ban.

Ahead of the meeting of fisheries ministers, Greenpeace had called for a suspension of the fishery "until France, Spain, Italy and their Mediterranean neighbours stop illegal fishing practices."

"The ministers of France, Italy and Spain have shown they are incapable of keeping illegal fishing for bluefin tuna under control," said Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace EU oceans policy director. "Only a suspension of fishing can bring the bluefin tuna back from the brink of collapse."

The commission, which monitors fishing regulations in the 27-country bloc, had ended the bluefin tuna fishery two weeks earlier than scheduled in June this year, after the 2008 quotas were reached, a decision opposed by Italy and France.

The ministers also agreed to a reduction in the western Baltic cod catch of 15 percent this year. Meanwhile, there will be a rise in the amount of eastern Baltic cod catch of 15 percent. Scientists have in recent years recommended a halt in fishing for eastern Baltic cod due to the poor state of the stock. Ministers believe that stocks have recovered enough for the quota to be raised.

The Baltic plaice catch is to be reduced by five percent.

The western Baltic herring catch however will see a reduction of 39 percent. The commission had earlier proposed a reduction of 63 percent.

The fisheries chiefs also agreed to cuts to deepwater fisheries, with quotas for black scabbardfish to be cut by 10 percent in 2009 and seven percent in 2010. Over the next two years, catch for roundnose grenadier will be cut by 30 percent. The orange roughy fishery will be ended from 2010.

Environmentalists however, were sceptical that there should be any deepwater fishery given the fragility of species at such depths.

"Given the longevity and low reproductive rate of deep-sea fish, fishing for deep-sea fish is like hunting elephants as if they were rabbits," said Ms Richartz.

The cuts were still less ambitious than those that had been proposed by the commission, which had wanted catch reductions for deepwater fish of up to 50 percent this year and up to 100 percent from 2010.

However, there will be an end to deepwater shark fishing from 2010.

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