Sunday, September 13, 2009

Maltese Shenanigans

Gone - probably forever .

Joe Borg sure talks the talk.

His assessment of the Achievements by the EU Fisheries Commission he heads proudly claims this.

Achieving sustainability in biological, economic and social fields has been an ongoing challenge. The basis of the Commission’s work has been to regain a sustainable resource base to allow EU fishermen to secure a viable future. This will also be a crucial objective for the European consumer whose expectations for healthy and sustainably-caught fish products are ever increasing.

a) Ecological sustainability

In order to put fisheries onto a firmer sustainable footing, the 2002 reform of the CFP foresaw a move from a short-term approach towards long term plans for major stocks in EU waters.
These plans include a number of provisions
for conservation measures aimed at preventing fi sh stocks from being overexploited and restoring them to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield. These measures seek to avoid that the pressures of fishing activities targeting certain stocks jeopardise the reproductive capacity of the stocks concerned or puts them at risk of collapsing. A number of such plans have already been established whilst others are expected to be adopted by the end of 2009.

Over the past five years the Commission has adopted ten long term plans for the following important stocks:
• Northern hake from the Bay of Biscay to the North Sea
• Southern hake off the Iberian Peninsula
• Nephrops off the Iberian Peninsula
• Plaice and sole in the North Sea
• Sole in the western Channel
• Sole in the Bay of Biscay
• Cod in the Kattegat, North Sea, Skagerrak eastern Channel,West of Scotland and Irish Sea
• Cod in the Baltic Sea
• Herring in the West of Scotland Sea
Bluefin tuna

Although the Commission is still far from extending the coverage of such plans to all European fisheries, an irreversible framework for better stock management, which will form the basis of our future action, has been set. There has been a definite change in the mind-set of policy planners and stakeholders who now make the request to have such plans developed in the interest of putting both the stocks and operators that live off these stocks on a surer footing

Well well, all very impressive indeed!

But how about walking the walk?
Like all of the apex predators in the Atlantic, the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is all but gone and the EU is seriously contemplating having the species listed under Appendix I of CITES.

If backed, this would result in an effective trading ban for all CITES members.
It would also effectively remove the issue from the direct control of the EU and its increasingly controversial Fisheries Commissioner who attempts to procrastinate further by asking for the usual "more data" - a scam that even game fishermen (!) decry.
What part, exactly, of Biologically Extinct does Joe not understand???

Thing is, Borg hails from Malta and the Maltese are obviously not amused, as the ban would apparently jeopardize the livelihood of the majority of their fishermen. As always with fisheries politics, it's the Tragedy of the Commons pure and simple: never mind the the consequences - as long as you can continue to reap and pillage!
And guess who's responsible for the drastic decline in stocks in the first place!

Malta is a major operator of Tuna pens.
As Greenpeace puts it, fishers corral schools of half-grown tuna and tow them in floating pens to marine ranches where they are fed and fattened until they can be killed and shipped to Japan.
There are rules banning fishing fleets from taking undersize tuna out of the Mediterranean, but none that prevent catching immature tuna and fattening them in floating pens. Every country on the Mediterranean (except Israel) takes advantage of this loophole and maintains tuna ranches offshore. The fishers from Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Croatia, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Malta are capturing half-grown tuna by the hundreds of thousands.
If you had to design a way to guarantee the decima
tion of a breeding population, this would be it: catch the fish before they are old enough to breed and keep them penned up until they are killed.

On top of that, existing fish farms have harmed the environment, polluting coastal ecosystems and putting additional pressure on wild fish populations by spreading disease and toxic chemicals. According to our friend Alex, the Maltese farms spread a diabolical stench and have already led to the pollution of several beaches and the demise of several of Malta's premier dive sites.

Borg's term is due to expire at the end of this year and Malta would have to re-nominate him.
Will he once again pander to his constituency - or will he see the light and ensure that his legacy will include having turned around the fate of the Mediterranean's most iconic predator?

Call me a defeatist - but I remain skeptical.
"Europe" being "Europe", the decision by the the Commission is yet again a compromise inasmuch as the ban will be subject to the "latest assessment" by the International Convention on the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. So far, ICCAT's track record in terms of conservation has been nothing short of ignominious and there's no reason to assume that they will not try their very best to have the ban stalled or revoked altogether.

Believe it or not, this table dates back to 2001!

Fingers crossed that I'm wrong!

1 comment:

The Sharkman said...

Well said my friend.

The damage to the reefs, the foul smells and pollution to our beaches, and the extinction of a species are not important to those "selected few", who are pocketing the money from these fish farms.

I for one (and quite a few other Maltese) would be happy to see the end of the Tuna farming and Tuna being protected.