European fish to get watered-down protection

European ministers agreed on watered-down rules to curb deep-sea fishing this week, but met with criticism from conservationists for failing to close deep-sea fisheries altogether.

The EU set quotas on endangered fish such as the orange roughy and the blue ling in European waters, rather than outlawing the exploitation of these species altogether – despite having supported a ban in international waters.

The WWF’s Paul King said: “The EU seems to have a double standard for deep sea fisheries in its waters and outside, this is not coherent. The precautionary principle should not be applicable wherever convenient but to all deep sea fisheries.”

He acknowledged that some progress had been made during the EU Fisheries Council meeting thanks to a “blocking minority of countries” including the UK, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Holland and Estonia that prevented the proposals from being watered down further as requested by France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Poland.

Paul King said that “the UK government is to be applauded for the stance it has taken in this meeting and its impact on the final decision.”

EU fisheries commissioner Joe Borg said “Scientists had recommended substantial cuts in these catches. The difficulty in this case was to find a balance between the need to reduce fishing pressure on the stocks concerned in a way that would not have devastating effects on the fleets concerned.”

EU ministers agreed to phase out fishing of the orange roughy and deep-water sharks, both endangered, by 2010.

Goska Romanowicz

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