Brexit: Johnson discusses ban on ‘hoover’ EU fishing trawlers
Brussels was slammed for harking back to the days of empire after it proposed insufficient measures to tackle overfishing of yellowfin tuna, while being the largest fisher of the “near threatened” species. Smaller than its Atlantic and Pacific bluefin cousins, the yellowfin is considered one of the ocean’s fastest and strongest predators. The species is massively overfished in the Indian Ocean, to the extent that supermarket brands Tesco, Co-op and Princes made the unprecedented move of joining scientists and environmental groups to call for tough action to rebuild the population, which was in 2018 valued at more than $4billion (£2.8bn).
While the Indian Ocean is bordered by Africa, Asia and Australia, its most pressing threat and biggest single harvester of yellowfin is the EU.
Spain and France lead the way with a “distant water fleet” of 43 vessels that fish the seas thousands of miles from home.
They caught 70,000 tonnes of the species in 2019 – more than Indian Ocean coastal states like Iran, (58,000 tonnes), Sri Lanka and the Maldives (44,000 tonnes each).
EU ships use technology that increases catch with less effort – “fish-aggregating devices” (FADs) – but that also leads to more bycatch being snatched, like young yellowish that have not yet had the chance to reproduce.
EU news: The bloc was accused of ‘hypocrisy and neocolonial’ in the Indian Ocean
Yellowfin tuna: Many nations around the Indian Ocean rely on yellowfin tuna as a source of income
A row between coastal states whose economies directly depend on the Indian Ocean and the mammoth bloc erupted last week ahead of meetings planned for this week.
The final gathering started at 7am (GMT) on Friday.
While the Maldives and EU, out of 33 parties involved, made proposals to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to reduce overfishing and rebuild populations, it is the Maldives that ordered the toughest restrictions.
The country described the EU’s proposals to rebuild yellowfin populations as “woefully inadequate”.
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Tuna fishing: Much of the tuna found in the UK and across Europe is sourced in the Maldives
Brussels’ call for a much less dramatic cut were described as a “band-aid measures” by Adam Ziyad, director general of the Maldives fisheries ministry and vice-chair of the IOTC.
He said: “It is nowhere near the required reduction levels to ensure we conserve the yellowfin stocks for our future generations.
“If they were serious, they would take a bigger hit and they would work with coastal states to have a better management plan.”
Nirmal Shah, former chair of Seychelles Fishing Authority and now the chief executive of Nature Seychelles, said the EU’s proposal was a “delaying tactic”.
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Fishing fleets: The EU outranks all of the countries that actually border the Indian Ocean
Brussels: The EU said it strongly supported ‘an effective reduction of catches to rebuild stock’
He said: “The EU is hypocritical, going around the world talking about overfishing. It’s a neocolonial situation.
“What the EU are telling us is they don’t care about our coastal nations.”
In response to the criticism, the EU said it strongly supported “an effective reduction of catches to rebuild stock” and had been “instrumental” in the IOTC’s decision to convene a special session.
The yellowfin crisis is not the first time the EU has been accused of hindering the economic development of less well-off countries.
Commonwealth: Many of the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean are Commonwealth members
Its Common Agricultural Policy has been called “criminal” and accused of “starving Africa”.
Farmers’ subsidies pile cheap food onto the continent at the demise of millions of agricultural workers already struggling.
The £30billion-a-year EU agricultural subsidy causes one of the biggest iniquities facing Africa, as well as other developing parts of the world.
Farmers there are left unable to export their products because they are forced to compete with the lower prices made possible by the subsidies.
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Oxfam has previously warned over the debilitating programme, which Claire Godfrey, trade policy adviser for the charity, said in 2011: “Not only does the Common Agricultural Policy hit European shoppers in their pockets but strikes a blow against the heart of development in places like Africa.
“The CAP lavishes subsidies on the UK’s wealthiest farmers and biggest landowners at the expense of millions of poorest farmers in the developing world.
“The UK Government must lobby hard within the EU to agree an overhaul of the CAP by 2008 to put an end to the vicious cycle of overproduction and dumping.”