Fishing Quotas on Agenda in Brazil Talks
Talks about the future of the beleaguered Atlantic bluefin tuna started to heat up on Sunday as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas struggled agree on a new fishing quota.
Environmentalists and scientists say populations of the bluefin and other species, like the porbeagle and thresher sharks, are critically depleted and may take decades to repopulate.
Forty-eight member countries are meeting behind closed doors at a resort near the Brazilian city of Recife until November 15th.
Mediterranean countries have resisted European Union calls to cut fishing quotas and want to keep catch limits above the levels recommended by the commission’s scientists.
Bluefin catches must drop to below 15,000 tons a year in order to ensure a recovery that allows sustainable catches of around 50,000 tons a year.
The European Union says it will make an extra effort to cut the take of tuna to the levels recommended by scientists.
Monaco has proposed a different mechanism to protect bluefin – listing the species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and the EU came close to supporting the move.
Fishing nations Spain, Italy, France, Cyprus, Greece and Malta said in September they would not allow the 27-member EU to give its combined backing to Monaco.
[Vincent Grimaud, EU Representative]:
"There are just too many boats on the sea fishing for bluefin tuna now and now is the right time to really address this issue and cut all these vessels out of this fishery."
Several commission members fear that if proper action is not taken after this week's conference, the group will jeopardize its credibility.
The Asian country's insatiable appetite for Atlantic tuna has been a key factor behind the threat to stocks around the world, and increasing demand from other nations is now adding to that pressure.
Japan has pushed for stronger compliance and will refuse to buy Atlantic tuna from critical regions.
[Masanori Miyahara, Japanese Delegation Head]:
"Japan's role as a fishing state is getting smaller and smaller and now you see our role as an importing state is getting larger and larger, so we have to request discipline in this situation."
However, conservation groups say that urgent moves are needed.
[Matt Rand, Pew Environment Group]:
"Sharks and tuna are a common property; it is not a certain company or a certain country that owns them. They have to manage this resource for the future generations.”
The EU says it would call on the commission to take ambitious steps to protect porbeagle and thresher sharks.
Both shark species are fished for their fins, which are prized in Asia as an ingredient for soup - but now they struggle to recover their numbers.