Sant insists fishing data undermining traditional Maltese fishermen

In reply to Commission rebuttal, Labour MEP says large-scale fishermen have lobbied in defence of their market share

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Matthew Vella
4 April 2017, 11:03am
Local fishermen are suspicious about the use of fishing industry data in favour of large operators to their detriment, Alfred Sant said
Local fishermen are suspicious about the use of fishing industry data in favour of large operators to their detriment, Alfred Sant said
Data collated on the fishing industry in the Mediterranean is being used to the detriment of traditional Maltese fishermen, Labour MEP Alfred Sant has insisted, after the European Commission’s Maltese representation denied statements made by the former prime minister on the European Union’s fisheries directives and how these had negatively impacted fishermen in Malta and Gozo.

Sant said that when it comes to allocating fishing quotas on a Union and on a national basis in order to preserve fish stocks, the data was being used to undermine traditional fishermen.

Sant was speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg when commenting on a statement released by the European Commission. “Maltese and Gozitan traditional fishermen share this opinion and continuously ask him to voice their concerns at the European Parliament on this issue,” Sant said, underlining that he met them on a regular basis.

“Local fishermen from Marsaxlokk, Mellie─ža and other areas in Malta and Gozo share these concerns every time I meet them and ask me to convey their message at the European Parliament.

“I will remain loyal to Maltese and Gozitan traditional fishermen who earn their livelihood from fishing and will continue to represent their interests at the European Parliament. Local fishermen are suspicious about the use of fishing industry data in favour of large operators to their detriment. I told the European Parliament that EU Directives have curtailed the livelihood and the future of Maltese and Gozitan traditional fishermen whose catches were disproportionately restricted for tuna, shortly for swordfish and will soon be restricted for lampuki.”

Last week, the Labour MEP told the European Parliament that EU fishing directives had curtailed the livelihood of fishermen through the “disproportionate restriction” on tuna catches and the swordfish. According to Sant, the common dolphin fish – lampuka – will soon be restricted too.

“Many traditional fishermen operate on a family basis. Up to quite recently, they lacked the knowledge, resources or time to be able to understand how their industry, indeed their way of life, were changing. Larger scale operators transformed the structure of the fishing industry and knew how to lobby in defence of their market share,” the MEP said.

The Maltese representation however argued against Sant’s statements, saying that timely action by the EU and its partner countries to recover Bluefin tuna, as well as efforts made by fishermen all throughout Europe, has led to the progressive recovery of the stock and will help ensure the long term sustainability of the fishery. Action on Bluefin Tuna has already resulted in a quota increase of more than 60% in the last three years.”

The European Commission said that there were no limitations on the amount of lampuki catches.

Sant has argued that larger scale operators transformed the structure of the fishing industry and lobbied in defence of their market share.

The European Commission said that the allocation of quotas to different fleet segments within a member state was the “exclusive responsibility” of that particular member state. “Malta can decide how it allocates quotas as long as this is done according to objective and transparent criteria. This is true for all species subject to quotas, including Bluefin tuna and swordfish,” it said.

The Mediterranean swordfish was previously managed through a set of technical measures, which were found not to be effective and in 2016, ICCAT scientists indicated that the stock was subject to severe overfishing. The EC said the required reduction in fishing mortality necessitated the introduction of quotas – a recovery plan that included new technical measures and gradually decreasing quotas at a ratio of 3% each year from 2018 to 2022).

“The recovery plan will improve the stock and at the same time improve over the medium term the profitability of the fleet,” the EC insisted. “Without such action, the fleet would have to suffer serious negative socio-economic consequences and emergency measures could have to be taken.”

The total allowable catches agreed by ICCAT for Mediterranean swordfish for 2017 is 10,500 tonnes. The share of the EU was fixed at more than 70%, “which is more than what the EU has fished in 2012, 2013 and 2014”, the EC said. “Member States must now decide how to allocate the EU share amongst themselves,” the European Commission concluded.

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.