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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
EU clamps down on fishing for bluefin tuna
Luxembourg - EU governments agreed on Monday to clamp down on fishing for bluefin tuna, a fish prized by sushi lovers, by cutting quotas and tightening inspection controls to stop the vulnerable species heading for extinction.
National fleets will now receive lower catch allowances for bluefin tuna in Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic waters, the first stage of a global deal that aims to conserve the species over the next 15 years, officials said.
The countries that will be hardest hit are Spain, Italy and France. Portugal and Malta will get smaller catch allowances for the rest of 2007, as do Cyprus and Greece.
Demand for bluefin tuna is high since it is especially popular in sushi and sashimi dishes. Unlike most tunas, bluefin grow slowly and mature late, making them more vulnerable to intensive trawling. In Japan, they can command prices of up to US$100,000 due to their appeal as a raw delicacy.
Last November, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) - the global body that oversees the rules for tuna fishing - reduced the quota for the amount of tuna that can be landed, but to nowhere near the levels recommended by the body's own scientists.
The ICCAT deal reduces the annual bluefin fishing quota gradually to 25,500 tonnes in 2010 from the current 32,000 tonnes. ICCAT scientists had called for a cut to 15,000 tonnes.
For 2007, EU fleets will share a quota of some 16,780 tonnes in the Mediterranean within the overall ICCAT quota of 29,500 tonnes. Other countries that trawl these waters for bluefin tuna include Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Japan.
"All we're doing is putting into Community legislation what was agreed at ICCAT," one EU diplomat said.
But the Commission's proposal had run into difficulties for several months with countries like France and Italy, he said, since they were unhappy with the terms of the ICCAT agreement and were keen to delay altering EU rules to accommodate it.
The EU will also raise the minimum landing size from 10 kg to 30 kg for bluefin tuna to help curb catches of juvenile or immature fish. There will also be major extensions in closed fishing seasons for all types of vessels, officials said.
Experts say wide-scale illegal fishing takes the total of bluefin tuna actually caught in the Mediterranean to 50,000 tonnes, far above the amount seen as sustainable by scientists.
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