EU confirms closure of tuna fishing season

23rd June 2008, Comments 0 comments

The industrial bluefin tuna fishing season in the Mediterranean has closed early despite criticism from angry French, Italian and Spanish fishermen.

23 June 2008

BRUSSELS - The industrial bluefin tuna fishing season in the Mediterranean has closed early, a spokeswoman for the European Commission confirmed Monday after a meeting with angry French and Italian fishermen.

"Tuna fishing in the Mediterranean is closed," said commission spokeswoman Nathalie Charbonneau for EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg.

On 13 June, the commission called an early halt to industrial fishing of bluefin tuna at the peak of the season over fears quotas were being filled too quickly.

The move triggered a wave of fierce criticism from Europe's leading tuna fishing nations France, Italy and Spain, which accused the commission of using faulty figures and demanded the decision be dropped.

Dismissing their accusations, the commission hit back last week arguing that its critics were failing to keep track of catches, running the risk of overfishing.

"It's instant death" for fishermen, fumed Mourad Kahoul, president of the tuna fishing union in the Mediterranean, after the meeting at the commission in Brussels.

The season would usually have run to the end of June, when the fleet normally hauls in 90 percent of its catches, taking as much as 550 tonnes of tuna per day.

The early closure will mean the commission facing fresh friction with France, Italy and Spain at a meeting in Luxembourg with EU fisheries ministers on Tuesday focussing on soaring fuel prices which have sparked waves of protests from trawlermen.

In theory, the ministers could overturn the commission's decision if a qualified majority is reached, which is unlikely to happen.

The commission's decision to close the tuna season early inflamed tensions with the fishing industry all the more because fishermen have been leading waves of protests against high fuel prices.

Chronically overfished, Mediterranean tuna are the victims of their success with fish lovers, who prize their flesh in sushi. About 70 percent of the Mediterranean catch goes to Japan and prices keep going higher.

"Without any fish there won't be any fishermen," said commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

[AFP / Expatica]

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