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Agence France Presse

Greenpeace Slams 'Unsustainable' New Tuna Quota


An international commission designed to protect bluefin tuna stocks has effectively increased the fishing quota for 2008 from what was already an "unsustainable" level, Greenpeace said Sunday.1119 06

"Countries are approving a bigger quota for a species that is on the verge of collapse instead of acting immediately to save it," said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain's Oceans Campaigner.

The environmental pressure group said the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), held in Turkeyhad approved a nearly 1,000-tonne increase in the 2008 catch.

Organisers issued no statement on the conclusions of the meeting -- attended by a Greenpeace delegation -- in the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya.

The increases will add to an "already unsustainable quota that will again in 2008 be around 29,500 tonnes," Losada said.

Greenpeace said the 45-member ICCAT agreed to allow Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia to fish an additional 691 tonnes in 2008, 771 tonnes in 2009 and 985 tonnes in 2010 because their national quotas were not met in previous years.

South Korea, meanwhile, could catch an additional 300 tonnes next year, it said.

The 2008 quota officially remained at 28,500 tonnes compared to 29,500 tonnes in 2007, but the additional allowances effectively brought it up to 2007 levels, Greenpeace said.

The quotas were established under a 15-year recovery plan adopted in 2006 that aims to cut the total hunt of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean by 20 percent by 2010.

Tuna fishing is an increasingly lucrative industry, particularly for developing economies that export to Japan, which consumes a quarter of the world's tuna.

Scientific research released in France in September showed that 50,000 tonnes of the fish were being pulled out of Mediterranean waters annually, far above the official quota and the 15,000-16,000 sustainable rate.

In Brussels, the European Commission said that ICCAT had also adopted at the Turkey meeting a new plan to trace all tuna catches down the market in a bid to eliminate illegal fishing and underreporting.

"It will make life more difficult for those who want to cheat the rules," Commission spokeswoman Mirreille Thom said.

ICCAT will also convene a meeting in Tokyo in March to see how better coordination between those involved in the catch and marketing, she added.

The EU also agreed a pay-back scheme for the EU after admitting to fishing around 20,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna this year above its allocated quota of 16,779.5 tonnes.

The regime will "see the EU pay back 100 percent of this year's quota overshoot in three equal annual instalments starting in 2009," the European Commision said in a statement.

In September, the EU, which has the largest quota in the ICCAT, banned bluefin tuna fishing in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean for the rest of the year because quotas for 2007 had already been exhausted.

Under the recovery plan, the EU has a quota of 16,210.7 tonnes for 2008.

Delegates at the Antalya meeting agreed to continue implementing the recovery plan for another year with a full review planned for early 2008, the European Commission said.

"If, in 2008, the scientists tell us that the plan is not working, then we must consider every option which might help prevent the collapse of this historic fishery," European Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said.

© 2007 Agence France Presse

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