Brussels, 13 June 2008.
The European Commission has today announced that it is closing the bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic for the purse seine fleets, as it deems that the quotas allocated to them will shortly have been exhausted. Purse seiners from Greece, France, Italy, Cyprus and Malta will be prohibited from fishing as of 00h00 16 June, and purse seiners from Spain will be prohibited from fishing as of 00h00 23 June. The decision is based on the data and information in the possession of the Commission. Other segments of the fleet which still have quota available are free to continue fishing. The closure of the purse seine fishery is necessary to protect this fragile resource, and ensure the recovery of the stock in line with the 15-year recovery plan agreed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT). The Commission is determined to use all necessary means to prevent a recurrence of the substantial overfishing seen in 2007.
So as to ensure that the closure is effective in preventing overfishing, the Regulation also prohibits EU operators from accepting landings, placing in cages for fattening or farming, and transhipments of bluefin tuna caught by purse seiners whatever flag they are flying (EU or third country) as of 00h00 16 June, with the exception of Spanish purse seiners which may continue to land, transfer and tranship until 00h00 23 June.
The current bluefin tuna campaign is being monitored through an unprecedented inspection and control campaign by the Commission in close collaboration with the Community Fisheries Control Agency. This campaign was started following the substantial overfishing by the EU fleet in 2007 and the serious control and enforcement deficiencies detected in all Member States involved in the fishery. Last year, overfishing was largely driven by the industrial purse seine sector of the fleet, which takes more than 70% of the total catch. Despite the means made available to the Member States through the European Fisheries Fund, and although its quota has been reduced under the ICCAT recovery plan, the capacity of the registered EU purse seine sector is larger in 2008 (134 vessels) than in 2007 (92). As a result, urgent action by the Commission to prevent quota overshoot was even more necessary. At the height of the season, in June, the EU purse seine fleet is capable of catching 10% of the EU's total annual quota in just three days.
The decision to close the fishery has been taken on the basis of Article 7 of the Basic Regulation of the Common Fisheries Policy, which empowers the Commission to take emergency measures if there is evidence of a serious threat to the conservation of living aquatic resources. The closure is enacted through Commission Regulation No 530/2008, which came into force immediately on its publication today. All operators must refuse bluefin tuna caught by EU or third country vessels as from the dates mentioned above.