Oceana welcomes today’s announcement by the European Commission to begin infringement proceedings against 7 EU Member States for failing to properly report their catches of bluefin tuna.
The announcement follows last week’s Commission decision to close this fishery to conserve stocks.
The Commission made public this morning that it has opened infringement proceedings against 7 EU countries for failing in their legal obligation to properly send bluefin tuna catch data. Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain could eventually face severe sanctions.
According to Xavier Pastor, the Executive Director of Oceana in Europe, “we welcome this announcement, even though it arrives late. This is not the first time that countries like France and Italy ignore the rules, overfish their allocated quota and then subsequently fail to accurately report their catches”. On the issue of last week’s closure of the bluefin tuna fishery, Xavier added “This was a necessary decision to stop Spain, Portugal, Greece, Malta and Cyprus continuing to fish. Although these countries had not in theory overfished their quota, in practice their catches are far higher than their reported data would suggest”.
Oceana points out that over the past few years, Italy and France have overfished by more than 40% their allocated quotas for bluefin tuna. Also, the international conservation organisation states that over 35% of the allocated quotas are fished illegally.
The decision coincides with the current debate about the adoption by the EU of the Bluefin Tuna Recovery Plan recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in November 2006. According to the Recovery Plan EU catch quotas for 2008 should be reduced by 3.38% from the 2007 level. Almost 50% of this reduction could be achieved simply by enforcing the EU driftnet ban; France allocated a bluefin tuna quota of 267 tonnes to a fleet that uses this illegal fishing gear.
Xavier Pastor added: “The reductions in quota over the coming years could be inadequate to prevent the collapse of this species, and are even more inadequate if catches are not properly reported and the fishery controlled to prevent illegal fishing.” He concludes: “Accurate catch data reporting and effective control measures are key conservation instruments to prevent the collapse of bluefin tuna stocks in the Mediterranean”.