Tuna fishing to be cut by 30 pct over two years

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Bluefin tuna fishing will have to be cut by 30 percent over two years in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean under an international accord reached in Marrakesh, the European Commission said Tuesday.

The total allowable haul of the increasingly endangered species was slashed from 28,500 tonnes in 2008 to 22,000 tonnes in 2009 and 19,950 tonnes in 2010, the European Union’s executive arm said.

A further quota cut to 18,500 tonnes in 2011 could also be possible depending on a review of stock levels in 2010.

The agreement was struck on Monday at a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), whose members — the main fishing nations — had been negotiating quotas since November 17.

While the organisation had not given details of the accord, the European Commission’s figures confirmed numbers given by conservation group WWF.

While groups such as the WWF have attacked the agreement for not going far enough, the commission — which negotiated on the European Union’s behalf — voiced satisfaction.

“It is a sign of the seriousness of the situation, and the maturity of all the participants, that it has been possible to achieve a consensus,” said EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg in a statement.

“What’s more, the revised plan will not simply reduce fishing pressure on the stock drastically, it also defines mechanisms for control throughout the marketing chain, and closes many outstanding loopholes,” he added.

The commission said that the quota cuts were backed up with a four-month reduction in the season of the industrial tuna fishing fleet, which account for the vast majority of catches.

The fishing season for such so-called purse seiners will therefore be knocked down to the period from April 15 to June 15.

Under the agreement, fishing capacity is supposed to be frozen at 2007-2008 levels while farming capacity in 2009 would be limited to 2007-2008 levels and would be reduced afterwards.

ICCAT members also committed to ban all imports or exports of bluefin tuna not covered from sources that are either a national or vessel.

ICCAT, brings together 46 major fishing nations ranging from Japan to the United States and Norway, also agreed to set up peer-review system to make sure that eveyone was complying with the power to slap quotas on violators.

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