Vella calls for urgent action to counter Mediterranean swordfish decline

International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna in Malta to debate on new fishing quotas for tuna and tuna-like species

European Commissioner Karmenu Vella
European Commissioner Karmenu Vella

European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella has called for urgent action to counter the decline of Mediterranean swordfish through overfishing.

"We must not delay action to ensure the sustainable exploitation of this stock," Vella said in an opening speech at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) at the Hilton hotel in St Julian's.

"The European Union stands intends to adopt a far-reaching plan for swordfish conservation in 2016, and such a plan would greatly benefit from a new stock assessment. In the meantime, we should ensure effective enforcement of the rules already in place and  continue to monitor this fishery closely."

ICCAT is responsible for setting fishing limits and quotas on tuna and tuna-like species.

Particularly relevant to Malta's fishing sector, ICCAT officials will discuss fresh resolutions on bluefin tuna on Wednesday, and on swordfish on Thursday

In his speech, Vella hailed the success of their quotas on bluefin tuna, that were relaxed in 2014 following tuna stock recovery.

"This progress is the result of sustained sacrifices, efforts and determination," he said. "It has not been easy, but it has worked."

The conference was also addressed by fisheries parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes, who appealed for any resolutions to take the particular needs of traditional, small-scale fishermen into account.

"Malta's fisheries are predominantly small and artisanal. Although this form of fishing is renowned for its high sustainability, its economic resilience is limited. The bluefin tuna recovery plan was a very big challenge and our sector endured long years of tremendous sacrifice," he said.

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