(AFP) – 3 days ago
BRUSSELS — Italy is to stop fishing for bluefin tuna, the lucrative but over-exploited species beloved of Japanese sushi fans, for 12 months, the European Union said on Saturday.
The move, enabled by financial aid from Brussels set aside for the forced tying-up of boats, comes weeks ahead of a European decision on whether to back calls for the fish to be officially listed as an endangered species.
Italy’s intention is to pressure neighbouring Atlantic and Mediterranean fishing giants France and Spain into doing likewise, to allow the world’s remaining stocks of the luxury fish to be replenished.
It may however result in the price of bluefin shooting even higher. A 232.6-kilogramme (512-pound) fish sold for 16.28 million yen (176,000 dollars or 127,000 euros) at auction in Japan earlier this month.
“Member states can do a voluntary freeze on fishing for a year if they want to,” said European Commission agriculture spokesman Michael Mann.
“There is a possibility in the European Fisheries Fund to give fishermen money if they are required to stop fishing for a particular type of fish.
“That’s what’s happening here. The moratorium applies to the big guys who are catching a lot of tuna.
“It’s not new money — its an existing mechanism,” he underlined.
Italian fisheries minister Antonio Buonfiglio said Rome has “decided to tie up the boats because the situation was untenable from an ecological and economic point of view.”
The Italian fleet runs to 49 huge trawlers, with almost 700 fishermen’s livelihoods at stake, and Buonfiglio said they “will receive European aid in exchange” for staying put for a year.
“We are anticipating a unified (European) position, notably on the part of Spain and France,” he also told France’s Liberation daily.
European leaders have to decide whether to back environmentalists, supported by scientists, who want bluefin added to a global list of threatened species agreed by international governments.
“The decision on whether or not we apply for a listing is probably going to be taken by the end of February, by the new commission,” added Mann.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species meets in March in Doha, Qatar.
|European leaders will decide in a few weeks whether to back calls for bluefin tuna to be listed as an endangered species|