Environmentalists slam international fishing conference
By Jasper Mortimer Nov 21, 2011, 13:30 GMT
Ankara - Representatives of 38 nations and the EU spent the whole of last week arguing over how to prevent the over-fishing of tuna, swordfish and sharks in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
When they finished on Saturday, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) declared the seven-day conference in Istanbul to have been 'very successful' - but environmentalists accused it of adopting 'half-measures' and 'wishy-washy' decisions.
The ICCAT did compel member-states to compile digital records of their fishing fleets' catches of bluefin tuna and swordfish.
The conference also enshrined the principle of 'no data, no fish' whereby countries that fail to provide sufficient data on their catches will not be allowed to fish that particular species the following year.
The conference mandated the ICCAT commission to expose those trawlers that illegally caught tuna in Libya's territorial waters during the country's revolution this year.
Delegates also agreed to ban trawlers from holding on to silky sharks - an endangered species that is often accidentally caught in fishing nets.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Shark Advocates International praised ICCAT for these moves, but said it should have gone much further.
In a statement, the Swiss-based WWF said it had hoped that the conference 'would see countries adopt a comprehensive plan to protect Mediterranean swordfish, as well as take steps to ensure the full traceability of bluefin tuna from ocean to plate - but only half measures have been agreed.'
The survival of the swordfish was threatened by 'too many boats, too big catches, and too long a season,' Gemma Parkes, a WWF spokeswoman told dpa.
The ICCAT protection plan is also 'a little wishy-washy because it does not include a strong recovery and management plan,' Parkes said.
The WWF had urged ICCAT to ban the catching of swordfish smaller than 140 centimetres and to impose a six-month moratorium on fishing the species.
Instead the conference imposed a minimum size of 90 centimetres and a three-month moratorium.
'If you keep catching the swordfish before they reach maturity, eventually they will die out,' said Parkes.
ICCAT's executive secretary, Driss Meski, declined to respond to WWF's remarks, but said the conference had imposed quotas for the catching of swordfish in the North Atlantic.
For the South Atlantic swordfish, 'quotas are expected next year.'
Similarly, Parkes accused delegates of failing to come to grips with what WWF calls the over-exploitation of tuna by fish farms on the Mediterranean coast.
Trawlers haul shoals of tuna to these farms, where they are fattened up before being processed for the market. But the fish-farmers are not compelled to allow independent verification of the number and size of the fish they receive.
'It's a wide open gap that allows farm operators to approximate the number and size of fish that come into the farms,' Parkes said.
ICCAT's Meski admitted the conference had not agreed to check the tuna entering the fish farms, but said it did agree to appoint monitors for the farms.
The implementation of electronic data for tuna catches was a 'very important reform,' Meski told dpa.
Meanwhile, the British-based Sharks Advocates International said 'much more must be done' to safeguard sharks.
It criticized the conference for voting down measures to protect porbeagle sharks and to strengthen the ban on shark 'finning' - the practice of cutting off the fin to be used in Chinese soups.
Meski took the view that the conference went as far it could within the limitation of reaching consensus among 39 national delegations.
For instance, on porbeagle sharks, he said: 'We had a recommendation. It was not accepted, but I'm sure it will come back next year.'
'All countries said this was a very successful meeting,' he added.