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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Earth log: Charles Clovers weekly column takes an inside look at the environment
Antalya, Turkey - Who are the greenest nations in the world? Many would unthinkingly include the EU which next month as a 27-nation bloc will go to Bali, Indonesia, and attempt to lead the world into a new treaty to deal with climate change based on findings to be published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Valencia this weekend.
Yet out here in what Winston Churchill, before the Dardanelles campaign, mistakenly assumed was the "soft underbelly of Europe," the EU is on the back foot, condoning sleaze and grossly unsustainable behaviour by its citizens; the United States has the moral authority; and the host nation, Turkey, has taken a far more virtuous position than the EU.
What is going on in this under-reported, cold and rain-sodden corner of the Mediterranean, behind the palm trees in a five star hotel?
The nations of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean have gathered to decide the fate of a species that has sustained European civilisation since before the time of Ulysses, when the quiet sea outside the hotel would have been alive with monk seals and dolphins which it does not have today.
I make no excuse for having followed the massacre of the bluefin tuna that has been going on relentlessly in the Mediterranean for the past seven years or so - not unlike the killing of the last American buffalo - for it seems to me the latest and most alarming example of what going on in our seas, which after all cover seven tenths of the Earth. It exemplifies the failure of governance in Europe when it comes to the sea.
Look out across the burgeoning development of the Mediterranean shore around Antalya, the blocks of flats stretching to the hills, and you despair that we will actually get a handle on greenhouse gas emissions in our lifetime.
But it is believable that we could get a handle on the destruction of our seas, which is happening much more quickly. If we did, because the seas help regulate the climate of the planet, it would be something in the bank.
Here, the United States is calling for a three year moratorium on catching the bluefin tuna, which scientists say is on the verge of collapse.
Nearly a decade of free for all fishing has driven a relatively healthy population of highly fertile fish, which used to feed the Roman legions, down to a level where scientists say it is in a state comparable to the Newfoundland co in 1989 or the North Sea herring in the late 1970s.
This newspaper has documented the farce of the EU adopting a new 15-year stock "rebuilding" plan which only came into force two weeks before the end of the season in June, though the EU apparently signed up to it last year.
We have reported on the rampant illegal fishing by French, Spanish and Italian fleets, assisted by illegal spotter planes, in contravention of that plan and the continued use by the French fleet of drift nets, banned by the EU and internationally 15 years ago.
The EU hoped to come here and argue, at this annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, that the rebuilding plan, which grants fishermen the right to take 29,500 tons of fish a year - twice the 15,000 tons that scientists say is the ceiling for the recovery of the species - should continue for another year, without being reviewed. More than 50,000 tons was caught every year for the past five years.
America, Mexico, Turkey and Canada think that the gold rush on this endangered species should be banned, at least for three years, so the enforcement so lacking in the Mediterranean should be put in place.
The EU to its shame does not think so. Even Japan, the market for about 90 per cent of the tuna, is now worried and says that Mediterranean countries should halve the amount of tuna fattened in cages known erroneously as "farms."
Bill Hogarth, the chairman of ICCAT and of the United States fisheries service, told me - as I interviewed him for a film about what is going on in the worlds oceans - "Nobody wants to deal with it. With the EUs experience of the collapse of the cod and other species I have a real problem with them not understanding that the bluefin is collapsing."
America is unlikely to get its way this week. Instead we will get a fudge which will not solve the problem. When all the barbs are directed at the United States next month over its likely failure to move quickly over global warming, just remember that it was the greenest nation this month when it came to dealing with a different tragedy of the commons.
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