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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Gone fishing: The European Commission is accused of withholding embarrassing data
On November 17th an international meeting in Morocco will consider how much bluefin tuna should be caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean next year. But it may lack crucial data. The group, called the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), meets every year to argue over quotas, of which the European Unions is the biggest. The EU divides this among its members in December (when the big row will be about plans to slash cod quotas).
The population of bluefin tuna is crashing after decades of overfishing, mainly by Europeans. This year a European body, the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA), has gathered data on bluefin and conducted inspections. Green members of the European Parliament asked for the study in September. But nothing materialised until Philippe Morillon, the French chairman of the parliaments fisheries committee, got the CFCA to produce a ten-page summary on November 6th. It concludes that it has not been a priority of most operators in the fishery to comply with ICCAT legal requirements. Rules on reporting catches and banning spotter planes have been flouted too.
Yet Ral Romeva, a green MEP from Spain, says this summary is a sanitised version. He believes the full report has been suppressed by the commission at the request of national governments because its contents are so embarrassing. The full report is said to contain details about the scale of infringements, including which countries are responsible. One-third of inspections, says Mr Romeva, led to an apparent infringement, such as inadequate catch documentation. The commission, he says, is covering this up.
Mielgo Bregazzi, a fisheries consultant, says he saw a copy of the full report in August, just before it went to the commission. He confirms that it contains the detailed data that the greens and the fisheries committee have been asking for. If the report does not materialise before November 17th, the ICCAT meeting will not have the full picture at a critical moment. In a letter to delegates, Fbio Hazin, ICCATs chairman, says this is its last chance to prove we can do our job properly. If we fail, other institutions will take over.
Mr Hazin is reluctant to spell out what this means. But a spokesman for the UN agency that regulates trade in endangered species, CITES, confirms that some countries want to put bluefin tuna forward for CITES protection if the results of the ICCAT meeting are unsatisfactory. This would make the politics of bluefin even more fraught, as the Americans believe that for many years the bluefin population in the Atlantic has been consistently overfished by Europeans.
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