European Commission 'corrects' Labour MEP over EU fisheries policy, Maltese fishing

The European Commission’s representation in Malta has issued a statement contradicting Alfred Sant’s declarations on how EU directives have negatively affected Maltese fishermen

Labour MEP Alfred Sant recently voted against a resolution on the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector
Labour MEP Alfred Sant recently voted against a resolution on the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector

The European Commission’s Maltese representation has denied statements made by former prime minister Alfred Sant on the European Union’s fisheries directives and how these have negatively impacted fishermen in Malta and Gozo.

Last week, the Labour MEP told the European Parliament that the 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.

The Maltese representation however argued against Sant’s statements. “The statement made by MEP Alfred Sant that EU directives would have curtailed the livelihood and the future of Maltese and Gozitan traditional fishermen is not correct.

“To the contrary: 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 argued that the “traditional fishermen” had suffered at the hands of large-scale operators.

"Larger scale operators transformed the structure of the fishing industry and knew how to lobby in defence of their market share,” Sant said.

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 European Commission added that the Mediterranean swordfish was previously managed through a set of technical measures, including closure periods: “However, these measures were not effective and in 2016 the ICCAT scientists indicated that the stock is subject to severe overfishing and that a substantial reduction of the fishing mortality was required to bring this stock back to sustainable levels.”

The European Commission argued that the scope of the required reduction in fishing mortality is such that it also requires the introduction of quotas.

“Consequently, the ICCAT Commission adopted a recovery plan under which the fishing mortality will be reduced via a mix approach, involving both new technical measures and gradually decreasing quotas (at a ratio of 3% each year from 2018 to 2022).”

It reiterated that the recovery plan will improve the stock and at the same time improve over the medium term the profitability of the fleet.

“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 t. 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”.

“Member States must now decide how to allocate the EU share amongst themselves,” the European Commission concluded.

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