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Brussels, 3 July 2009.

Fisheries: Tuna governance advances, but capacity is still 'the' issue

The European Commission welcomes the strong endorsement given by the international community to the 'Kobe process' to improve and streamline international management of high-seas tuna fisheries at a meeting in San Sebastian, Spain, which closed earlier today. ( IP/09/1053 ). Positive results include steps to accelerate the alignment of the regulation of these fisheries throughout the world on those standards which constitute current best practice. However, the Commission regrets the fact that the representatives of contracting parties to the five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) concerned proved unable to reach consensus on immediate action to freeze the capacity of the global tuna fleet.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg commented, "The Kobe process has allowed for real progress to be made. I am glad that the international community has recognised the value of this tool which allows us both to establish best-practice in managing the world's tuna stocks, and to measure RFMOs' progress towards that gold standard. But I am disappointed that differences in positions between the parties made it impossible to agree on the global capacity freeze proposed by the EU. It is vital that we find a way to bridge the gap between the developing states and other partners, so that effective action on this issue can be taken as soon as possible."

The meeting in San Sebastian, dubbed 'Kobe 2', has no formal legal status, but adopted instead a number of recommendations to the RFMOs involved, thus reinforcing the Course of Action agreed at the first Kobe meeting in Japan in 2007. Actions recommended for immediate implementation include protection of the most vulnerable shark stocks, harmonising procedures for scientific research and advice across the different regions, and the adoption of best-practice on compliance. Four working groups have also been set up, to maintain the momentum over the next two years until the Kobe 3 meeting. These will cover the issues of: by-catch in tuna fisheries; monitoring, control and surveillance; science; and tuna fleet capacity.

The next Kobe meeting will be held in 2011. The European Commission hopes that a ministerial-level meeting can also be organised around that time, to give high-level political endorsement to the process, and help ensure that its recommendations are carried forward rapidly into practice.

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