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»‘Hypocritical’ EU gives €34.5m to fleets!!

»Friday, March 19,2010

The European Union has given out tens of millions of euros to subsidise the Mediterranean tuna fishing fleets despite warnings from scientists that overfishing is pushing the species close to extinction.

Between 2000 and 2008 a total of €34.5 million (£31.4 million) was given by the EU to support the fishing fleets, Joe Borg, the European Commissioner, revealed after a parliamentary question from a Spanish MEP.

“I am shocked at the scale of the subsidies given to the bluefin fleet,” said Raül Romeva i Rueda, who represents the European Green Party. “This shows clearly the hypocrisy of the EU, which insists on the need to conserve fish stocks while simultaneously encouraging the rapid expansion of a fleet that was already too large.”

Spain received more than half of the subsidy, with French and Italian fleets the next biggest beneficiaries. Cyprus, Malta and Greece were also given money.

Over the eight-year period, €23 million was given to fund the construction of new boats, including ultra-modern purse seiners that are able to land 100 tonnes in one haul. A further €10.5 million was given to modernise existing vessels, increasing their ability to track down and catch the tuna. Only €1 million was used to decommission vessels, but mainly for small-scale, local boats.

Overcapacity has been a problem in the world’s fishing fleet, with too many boats chasing too few fish. According to the European Commission, EU vessels are able to catch almost 21,900 tonnes of tuna a year, approaching twice the EU’s 2009 quota of 12,400 tonnes.

Stocks of the Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna are at risk after more than half a century of overfishing.

The International Council for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna was established in 1969 after concerns that the species was being fished unsustainably when the fish came to spawn in the Mediterranean.

Since 1955 populations have shrunk to a quarter of their former size, with the bulk of the reduction occurring since 2002. Between 2001 and the present, the average size of bluefin tuna has shrunk by half.

In October the organisation’s scientists found that the stock was below 15 per cent of its pre-exploitation levels, qualifying it for a ban on trade via the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). It is not known if the EU will support a proposal from Monaco to ban the trade when CITES meets in March next year.

“We’ve always suspected the amount of public subsidy was very high, but until now it’s been very hard to get a good picture,” said Sergi Tudela of WWF. “These figures are not even complete yet. This is just the funding from Brussels, and the figures do not include the national subsidies, which in many cases equal them. It’s a real scandal,” he said.

“The EU has now committed to reducing overcapacity, but we’re going to have to pay again for that. We’ve paid once to make these ships that have been used to make a few people rich. They’ve destroyed the bluefin — a common stock — and now they are going to ask for more money.”

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