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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
EU cites flagrant abuse of bluefin tuna fisheries
Brussels - EU fisheries regulators on Tuesday accused France and Italy of quota-busting and misreporting catches of bluefin tuna.
They said there were widespread abuses by fishermen from several nations trawling for bluefin tuna in the east Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Last week, the European Union banned trawling for bluefin tuna, prized by sushi lovers but chronically overfished for years, for vessels flying the flags of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy and Malta in these waters. The ban came into force on Monday. A similar ban enters into force for Spain on June 23.
In a statement, EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg rejected calls by some of the countries to suspend the ban, citing numerous "failures of implementation and control" that made it impossible for national tuna catches to be accurately monitored.
At least eight spotter planes were working with EU vessels to help them identify bluefin tuna shoals, regulators said. Using spotter planes is illegal.
But the incentive to catch bluefin tuna remains strong, particularly in June, when around 85 percent of the fish are caught. Since last year, market prices for the delicacy have tripled: in Japan a single fish can cost up to US$100,000.
Bluefin tuna are known for their huge size, power and speed, with maximum weights recorded in excess of 600 kg. But the species' stock numbers are so depleted that scientists say bluefin tuna may die out if fishing is not restricted.
"This year again, the fishery has been marred by countless failures to properly implement the rules which have been agreed at international level to manage the bluefin tuna stock sustainably," the Commission said in its statement.
The EU bans apply to vessels that use a "purse seine", a type of net that floats the top of a long wall of netting on the surface while its bottom is held weighted under the water.
"We know of eight French purse seine vessels which have spent up to 21 days fishing since the start of the season, but have so far declared no catches," the statement said.
According to official figures, half the French fleet had caught nothing, while the other half declared they had caught over 90 percent of their individual quotas, although all the vessels showed similar activity rates, it added.
Some Italian purse seine vessels had, according to official figures, overshot their quota by between 100 and 240 percent.
Commission experts say the EU's fishing capacity is so large and bluefin tuna trawling activity so concentrated in June that the EU quota can be exhausted in just two days of fishing.
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Issues/Corruption / mismanagement
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