The EU and its member states have made separate moves recently to tighten up controls against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. They are set to meet this week to decide whether to support a ban on bluefin tuna, as scientists warn of a looming collapse in fish stocks.
A draft document, prepared by the European Commission’s environment directorate, outlines recommendations for listing bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and temporarily bans all international trade of the species.
“From a scientific and technical point of view, the criteria for the listing of Atlantic bluefin tuna [as an endangered species] appear to be met,” claims the draft, seen by the Financial Times newspaper. “There is no doubt about the link between international trade and overexploitation of the species.”
Temporary bans have been imposed by the Commission before, in 2007 and 2008, when it stated there was a need to protect tuna as a “fragile resource,” following “substantial overfishing by the EU fleet in 2007”.
A meeting of the EU’s fisheries and environment commissioners on Friday (28 August) produced no agreement on whether the Commission should support the proposed ban. Following on from this, the 27 EU commissioners will decide this week whether to support a call for bluefin tuna to be listed on CITES, with an announcement expected by Wednesday 9 September.
Monaco became the first country in the world to stop the sale of bluefin tuna and is sponsoring the proposed ban on the species. Several other European states, including the UK, the Netherlands, France and Germany, have announced they would support such a ban and are encouraged by lobbying from environmental groups.
Those EU countries most opposed to the ban are Spain, Italy and Malta, all of whom have large fishing fleets.
United Nations agreement on port state measures
In a related move, the European Commission welcomed the establishment of an international agreement at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) last Friday on port state measures as part of the global fight against IUU fishing.
The new FAO agreement covers ports in all states around the world, setting minimum standards which include: “Prior notification by the flag state to confirm the legality of the catches held onboard before a vessel is granted access to port facilities, procedures for inspection of foreign vessels when at port [and] a legal basis for denying IUU-listed vessels access to port facilities.”
The Commission believes there were “serious control and enforcement deficiencies detected in all member states involved in the [tuna] fishery” in 2007, and that these were an important contributing factor to the present dire state of tuna stocks in the Atlantic and EU waters.
On the issue of food security, the FAO estimates that between 15 and 20% of all animal proteins come from aquatic animals, and of the 30 states most dependent on fish as a protein source, 26 are developing countries.
CITES contracting parties will meet in Doha, Qatar on 13-25 March 2010, but proposals need to be submitted by 17 October 2009 to be eligible for consideration at the Conference of the Parties.