Libyan seining on track to be illegal

19 May 2011
Bluefin tuna caught by the Libyan fleet will be “well on track to be deemed illegal”. ©Wolcott Henry 2005/Marine Photobank

Bluefin tuna caught by the Libyan fleet will be “well on track to be deemed illegal”. ©Wolcott Henry 2005/Marine Photobank

Maria Damanaki, EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has sent a letter to EU Ministers regarding the fishing situation in Libya.

In the letter she points out that Libyan fisheries and inspection plans have not been endorsed by ICCA’s Compliance Committee. ICCAT is the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the organisation responsible for the conservation of tuna in the Atlantic and adjacent seas.

She said that due to the fact that Libya voluntarily suspended its fishery, no vote was taken by the Commission to suspend Libyan fishing for bluefin tuna in 2011. However, the country then withdrew its suspension and Ms Damanaki says that Libya has made it clear that the purse seine fleet does intend to fish for bluefin during the forthcoming campaign. In fact, WWF and Greenpeace have said that, according to reports, some Libyan vessels have already left Malta bound for Libyan waters.

ICCAT has confirmed that Regional Observers will not be deployed on Libyan waters, due to the potential security risks and the fact that the deadline has passed for participation in this year’s Regional Observer Programme.

Therefore Ms Damanaki says that bluefin tuna caught by the Libyan fleet will be “well on track to be deemed illegal by the ICCAT Compliance Committee, as potentially non-compliant with ICCAT conservation and management measures.”

In the letter she urges EU Ministers to monitor the fishing activities of their vessels, along with the activities of their national operators with those vessels.

Bluefin tuna that are not accompanied by the necessary documentation can not be traded, landed, imported, exported, placed in cages for farming, re-exported or transhipped.

Ms Damanaki says that as no paperwork has been received on private trade agreements between EU nationals and any other ICCAT Contracting Party, no EU vessel will fish in the Libyan fishing zone.

Ms Damanaki says that this issue could have a real impact on the recovery plan for bluefin tuna.

WWF and Greenpeace have also sent an urgent request to ICCAT calling for the fishery to be suspended. They say that ICCAT member states should have stopped the Libyan vessels departing Malta for Libyan waters.

They share the belief that fishing for bluefin in this region could impact recovery plans and have said, “The current unrest in Libya means there is no chance of effective monitoring and enforcement of the fishery in its waters, risking fatally undermining an internationally agreed recovery plan for the severely overfished species.”

“Unless members of ICCAT take urgent action they will appear more determined than ever to undermine the management plans that at best will give Mediterranean bluefin a few years to survive,” said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace International Oceans Policy Advisor. “If we want bluefin tomorrow, ICCAT must control the fishery – this is currently impossible in Libyan waters. This means ICCAT member countries must agree to suspend the fishery to protect their own plans to recover the species.”

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