EU backs down on bluefin quota cut

19 Nov 2010

European tuna fishing nations have forced the European Union to scrap plans to save the threatened bluefin through a sizeable cut in the 2011 annual quota.

After drawn-out negotiations, the 27-member state EU abandoned a plan to seek cutbacks in fishing quotas based only on scientific advice. It said it will now also consider the interests of tuna fishermen.

Representatives from 48 countries around the world are preparing to set fishing quotas for the Atlantic bluefin. That meeting in Paris, France, started Wednesday 17 November and continues through 27 November.

Bluefin tuna stocks in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean have dropped 60% from 1997 to 2007, and the current Mediterranean fishing quota is 13,500 tonnes.

Some conservationists want quotas slashed at the international meeting, while others want fishing suspended entirely, saying that illegal fishing is rampant in the Mediterranean.

EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said her latest negotiating mandate "is not based on the Commission's proposal", which had focused on recommendations from marine scientists. She now must defend a position at a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) that she does not agree with.

"Nevertheless, the Commission will respect its obligations as the negotiator on behalf of the European Union," she said in a statement.

The EU statement did not say what quota it would press for at the international meeting.

Damanaki had reportedly been seeking to halve the quota.

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