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EU Approves Unsustainable Catches


GENERAL - Oceana believes that the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) approved by the Council of Fisheries Ministers of the European Union are insufficient to ensure the sustainable exploitation of deep-water species.

The regulation on fishing opportunities, reached yesterday afternoon, aimed to slightly reduce or maintain current TAC levels for 2011 and 2012. The regulation also ignores more than 20 vulnerable species, which will continue to be fished without any management measures.

Oceana supports the new regulation maintaining the 2010 TAC of 0 tonnes for deep sea sharks, including four new species, and the orange roughy. However, the organization regrets the decision not to ban incidental deep-sea shark catches in 2011, and incidental orange roughy catches in 2011 and 2012.

With respect to other species included in this regulation, Oceana is deeply concerned about the null or minimal reductions adopted, particularly in those cases where explicit scientific advice was ignored. Indeed, for species such as the black scabbard fish and the sea bream, TACs exceed scientific advice by 15% and 56%, respectively. For other species like the alfonsino, grenadier, blue ling and codling, the approved reductions between 0% and 13% are inadequate, since there is still no scientific evidence that their exploitation is sustainable.

"The slow growth rate, late maturity and low fertility characteristic of these species cannot withstand high operating levels,” said Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana Europe. “Their management must, now more than ever, follow the precautionary approach.”

Both the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) have recommended, due to the precarious situation of most of the stocks, a significant reduction in the catches of these deep-sea species, until the evolution of the stock sizes shows a positive trend.

Another problem is the current commercial exploitation of 22 other deep-sea species without any management measures. Although theoretically these species are occasionally caught in small quantities, they are equally vulnerable, and their exploitation should therefore have been regulated and included into the final regulation. "The impacts of these fisheries are significant, as they cause the physical destruction of important habitats such as seamounts and deep-sea reefs,” added Javier Lopez, marine scientist at Oceana. “Also deeply troubling is the capture of bycatch species. Some fisheries catch more than 70 non-target species."