Deep-sea sharks protected as EU sets fish quotas

Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:28am EST
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By Pete Harrison

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European fisheries ministers have agreed minor cuts to quotas for some vulnerable deep-sea fish and more stringent measures to protect rare sharks.

The European Union is trying to nurse its fish stocks back to health after decades of over-exploitation. Deep-sea fish are particularly vulnerable as they reproduce so slowly.

The ministers' decision late on Monday affected just 80 million euros ($104 million) worth of fish, but was seen as an important test case in a series of bruising encounters with European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki.

Damanaki, who started her political career in a 1973 uprising against the then Greek dictatorship, has pledged to put the long-term health of fisheries ahead of short-term profits.

Earlier this month, fishing nations led by France rejected her advice that bluefin tuna catches should be halved to give the species a fair chance of survival. In the event, quotas were cut by 4 percent.

At Monday's meeting, catch quotas for deep-sea sharks were set at zero, with zero tolerance from 2012 for the sale of sharks netted while trawling for other species.

But conservationists, including WWF and the Pew group, said many sharks would still be scooped up accidentally, then dumped overboard, particularly by French and Spanish boats trawling the deep seabed northwest of Scotland and Ireland.

The Atlantic's main scientific authority, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), says all northeast Atlantic deep-sea species are fished beyond safe biological limits.   Continued...