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Northern Hemisphere Fisheries Raid Sth Pacific

Northern Hemisphere Fisheries Raiders on South Pacific Refuse Restraint

The European Commission, Russia and Korea blocked prolonged attempts in Hobart at reaching agreement to limit bottom trawling and pelagic (mid water) trawling in the South Pacific this week. The result is that an international attempt to reach agreed limitations on fishing in the South Pacific collapsed today, says Cath Wallace, co-chair of ECO who attended the meeting in Hobart.

The meeting was the product of an agreement in Wellington in February 2006 to develop rules for a South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO), and to agree on interim measures to protect the South Pacific marine environment while these rules are developed.

“The European Commission, Russia and Korea refused to accept measures proposed by Australia and New Zealand, and agreed by most other delegations, to limit bottom trawling and to limit any expansion in other fisheries, particularly squid and jack mackerel fisheries, which are important to Chile and other countries.

“It was a shock that the European Commission blocked all attempts at compromise, even when other countries gave way. We are used to thinking of Europe as environmentally responsible, but not this week. Their position seems to reflect the desire of the European Commission’s fisheries division to protect the interests of Irish and Netherlands super-trawlers."

“The European Commission (EC) appears to be protecting northern hemisphere super trawler raiders of the South Pacific. At least two EC super-trawlers are already fishing in the South Pacific. Others, removed from the decimated fisheries of West Africa, are likely to join them."

“What is particularly galling is that this abandonment of the precautionary and ecosystem approach, and of the norms agreed at other international agreements seems to be being driven because of super-trawlers that were built with EC subsidies with the condition that they do not fish in European waters. These trawlers are giants at over 140m. They will devastate not only the fish stocks but also the fragile marine animal communities that form the habitat and the basis of the health of the marine environment."

Measures to limit bottom trawling were very close to being agreed. Japan and others were ready to compromise, but the EC, Russia and China would not agree.

“This is a disaster for the marine environment, for South Pacific communities’ long term economic and environmental health and for international cooperation."

The intransigent behaviour of the EC was the talk of the meeting: it will be a black cloud over attempts in New York in the next two weeks to achieve international agreement at the UN General Assembly on oceans and fisheries management, including an interim prohibition on bottom trawling.

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