EU Suggests Quota Cuts to Save Deep-Sea Fish
Author: Jeremy Smith
Bearing names like orange roughy, black scabbardfish, greater silver smelt and roundnose grenadier, Europe's deep-sea fish grow and reproduce far more slowly than fish in shallower waters and are far more vulnerable to overfishing.
With the depletion of EU commercial stocks such as cod and hake in recent years, deep water fish have become an attractive catch as trawlers switch from traditional fishing grounds.
Scientists have warned that many are at risk of disappearing and have urged a total ban on fishing them.
But the European Commission says it prefers a volume cut of 33 percent for next year from 2005 in annual catches shared around the 25 EU states, then a further 33-percent cut in 2008.
"Many of the current TACs (total allowable catches) for deep-sea stocks have proved to be well beyond actual catches," EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said in a statement.
"For a number of stocks, the catches in 2005 were less than 40 percent of the quota, with the result that TACs have failed to limit fishing pressure on these fragile stocks," he said.
The Commission proposed TACs based on actual catches and implemented gradually to give fishing fleets more time to adapt to the restrictions. EU fisheries ministers will debate the cuts over the next few months.
Species where catches may be reduced by the proposed amount in 2007 include orange roughy, blue ling, deep sea sharks, black scabbardfish and tusk, depending on the zone involved.
For some species in other fishing zones, the Commission has called for quota cuts of as much as 88 percent in 2007.
France, Spain and Portugal rank among the EU countries with the most developed deep-sea fishing industries, followed by Britain and Ireland.
In European waters deep sea fish are mainly found in the north Atlantic at depths of 400 metres (1,310 feet) and more.
The EU already has strict rules to control deep water fishing. Special permits are needed for vessels to land or transship more than a certain amount of these fish, which may only be delivered to specified ports. But enforcement is patchy.
Orange roughy, one of the most valuable and vulnerable deep water fish, can live 150 years.