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EU officials, lawmakers thrash out fisheries reform
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) May 30, 2013

Japan to reject international shark trade regulation
Tokyo (AFP) May 31, 2013 - The Japanese government has decided to reject landmark rules on the trade in sharks, an official said Friday, opting for status quo despite a global push to protect the predators.

Japan is filing a "reservation" about the regulation under the 178-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to restrict cross-border trade in the oceanic whitetip, the porbeagle and three types of hammerhead shark.

"It is the Japanese government's position that the species should be managed under the existing management bodies," said a Japanese diplomat assigned to the issue.

Asian nations led by Japan and China -- where shark fin soup is considered a delicacy -- tried to block the regulations in March at a Bangkok convention, but greater support for the measure from the rest of the world overwhelmed them.

Global shark populations have been decimated over recent decades. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), humans kill about 100 million sharks each year, mostly for their fins.

Conservationists warn that dozens of species are under threat. Over the past 100 years, 90 percent of the world's sharks have disappeared, mostly because of overfishing, the FAO says.

Tokyo's move, Kyodo News said, risks global criticism of Japan, whose appetite for seafood has been seen as pushing some oceanic creatures, most notably tuna, toward extinction.

Japan has long faced criticism from maritime conservationists for its regular whale hunting programmes, which Tokyo claims are carried out for scientific purposes while making no secret that the meat ends up on dinner plates.

UN warns of jellyfish 'vicious circle' in Med
Rome (AFP) May 30, 2013 - The United Nations on Thursday warned overfishing in the Mediterranean was boosting jellyfish, which reduce stocks further and it called for jellyfish to be used in food, medicine and cosmetics.

A study by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome said overfishing had increased the number of jellyfish because it had removed their main predators from the food chain.

In a "vicious circle", the jellyfish then feed on fish larvae and young fish "and further reduce the resilience of fish populations," the report said.

It pointed out that fish stocks had still not recovered from a surge in the mauve-coloured Pelagia jellyfish in the Adriatic 20-30 years ago.

The report pointed to other possible factors behind the growing number of jellyfish besides overfishing, including global warming and the increase in fertilizers and sewage in the water which increases the nutrients for jellyfish.

It suggested that among the ways to reduce the jellyfish populations in the Mediterranean could be increased use of medusae as food or medicine.

It also said that the discovery of an "immortal jellyfish", which is capable of reversing its ageing process, held out the promise of developing powerful rejuvenation products for humans.

EU officials and European lawmakers finally agreed a fisheries reform package on Thursday, winning a guarded welcome from green groups with a commitment to protect stocks and control the wasteful dumping of unwanted fish.

Irish Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney, who chaired all-night talks, said the accord "places sustainability firmly at its core."

Quotas will be set on the basis of Maximum Sustainable Yield levels to ensure that an underlying fish breeding stock is protected, Coveney said in a statement .

The current wasteful and damaging practice of dumping unwanted fish overboard will be banned, he said, but controversial exemptions will also be allowed.

Discards are estimated to account for up to a quarter, and perhaps more of the total EU catch, and the European Parliament had backed a total ban earlier this year.

The fishery industry, and especially Spain, balked, saying a complete ban was unworkable as fishermen inevitably catch unwanted or unsuitable fish even when trying not to.

An initial compromise allowed fishermen to discard up to 9.0 percent of their catch for two years, falling to 8.0 percent for the next two years and then finally to 7.0 percent.

Under pressure from lawmakers and environmental groups, this was reluctantly changed to 7.0, 6.0 and then 5.0 percent.

Ulrike Rodust, the rapporteur for the European Parliament's fisheries committee, said accepting this regime "was a big concession by us" but noted that countries would now have to ask for this right to discard.

Recognising the industry's difficulties with a ban on discards, Rodust said: "I think that the compromise we have a arrived at is a very good one."

Coveney also stressed the importance of the compromises made, highlighting how fisheries decisions will now be made on a local basis, and not in Brussels, with protections for sensitive areas such as fish breeding grounds and juvenile stocks.

The accord, which goes to member states and then the full Parliament for final approval, establishes a "new model for the next 10 years ... which will protect fishing communities ... and ensure they will have stocks to fish," Coveney said.

The discard issue was "one of the most contentious and difficult to agree given the many different perspectives on how such a ban would work in practice," he added.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki hailed the accord, noting that its provisions will also apply globally to EU fishing boats, not just in EU waters.

The Commission also released new figures showing that progress was being made in restoring stocks -- 39 percent of species in the Northeast Alantic were now overfished, down from 47 percent in 2012 and 95 percent in 2005.

The EU is third to China and Peru in global fisheries rankings.

Environmental groups generally welcomed the accord as a considerable step forward, if still falling short of all it could be.

"For decades in Europe, fishing has been a story of decline," Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said.

"The deal that is emerging today is good news, even if we are disappointed that ministers blocked a deadline for the recovery of fish stocks," Richartz said.

"For the first time, the EU has recognised the value of low-impact fishermen by highlighting the need for social and environmental criteria in the allocation of fishing quotas."

The WWF said the accord "includes some positive elements but fails to end overfishing over the next generations."


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Spain and France agree on fishing quota swap
Madrid (AFP) May 25, 2013
Spain and France have reached an agreement on swapping fishing quotas which will allow for Spain to fish more hake and monkfish, authorities said Saturday. "We have received quotas of 1,500 tonnes of hake and 1,100 tonnes of monkfish, the two main (fishing) species our boats catch," the agriculture ministry in Madrid said in a statement, but without giving details on the quotas that will be ... read more

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