King of Sushi on the critical list

LAST UPDATED: 4 May, 2009 @ 12:32
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King of Sushi on the critical list

EU’s fishing industry on ‘brink of suicide’ as Bluefin tuna face extinction in just three years

THE “king of sushi” — the bluefin tuna — could be forced into extinction in three years due to current catch rates.

Cod and anchovy might also join them, if the “suicidal” EU rulings allow fishermen to continue at the current levels.

Just two weeks into the official fishing season of Bluefin tuna in the Meditteranean and conservationists fear that the increasingly small size of adult fish caught means stocks will no longer be viable.

“The sector is overfishing and, if you like, committing suicide”

Bluefin has become such a sought after delicacy in the Far East that enormous prices are being paid for thir rich red meat.

Now European Commission officals have admitted five key failings in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy as they prepared to tear up the idea of a centrally-dictated strategy.

They launched the search for an alternative, saying that much of the responsibility for fishing must be returned to EU member states.

One key failing that has led to the near-extinction of stocks of cod, bluefin tuna and anchovy is the “deep-rooted problem” of fleet overcapacity.

Campaign groups, such as Greenpeace, are arguing for a 40 per cent cut in the EU’s 90,000 vessels.

The Commission said that 88 per cent of EU stocks were overfished, compared with only 25 per cent worldwide.

Ministers from individual EU states were given much of the blame in the Green Paper.

They meet every December to set fish quotas and every year they override expert scientific advice, which, for example, has been calling for cod fishing to be closed in the North Sea to allow it to recover.

Last year 93 per cent of cod was caught before the fish were mature enough to reproduce. But a higher cod quota was set for this year, under pressure from member states.

One of the most senior European Commission fisheries officials added: “The sector is overfishing and, if you like, committing suicide.”

Spain has the biggest fleet in terms of tonnage, but its 11,350 boats are still outmatched by Greece, which has 17,350, and Italy with 13,700.

Aaron McLoughlin, head of the European Marine Programme at WWF, said: “The Commission have produced an admirably honest critique of a dysfunctional fisheries policy.”

He added that the successful fisheries of Alaska, New Zealand and Norway, based on long-term management plans for fish stocks and cuts in fleet capacity, could be copied in Europe.

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