President. – The next item is the report by Raül Romeva i Rueda, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 302/2009 concerning a multiannual recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (COM(2011)0330 - C7-0154/2011 - 2011/0144(COD)) (A7-0449/2011).
Raül Romeva i Rueda, rapporteur. – Madam President, last January, a bluefin tuna caught off the coast of north-eastern Japan reached a record high in the first auction of the fish market in Tsukiji in Tokyo, reaching EUR 570 000. The price of this 269 kilo tuna beats last year’s previous record of EUR 320 000. This is simply crazy and explains how important this business is.
Tomorrow, the European Parliament will vote on EU legislation introducing new internationally agreed rules for the bluefin tuna fishery in European waters. As the 2012 bluefin fishing season opened last week, the rules clearly need to be swiftly implemented. In addition to quotas, these rules set out the conditions, practice and equipment for the fishing and farming of these iconic and endangered fish species. Unfortunately, the rules fall far short of what international scientific advice deems necessary to give this unique, beautiful and highly priced fish species a decent chance of recovering from its current critically low stock levels.
The sorry state of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic and Mediterranean is well known. Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks have declined by up to three-quarters over the past 40 years and, given the long reproductive cycle of the fish, the prospects for recovery are not good. Documented and legal over-fishing of bluefin has been really exacerbated by illegal, regulated and unreported fishing of these high-value fish. High profile cases of this kind included last year’s illegal fishing in Libyan waters during the war.
The heavy involvement of organised crime in the fishing and farming of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean is also a major cause of concern. Furthermore, given the scale of illegal and unreported fishing, it is impossible to get an accurate picture of how many fish are being caught. However, different estimates suggest the amounts being caught are multiples of the actual allowed quotas, which themselves are already unsustainable.
In that sense, this new legislation, although necessary, represents a missed opportunity for the EU to take meaningful steps to prevent the demise of bluefin tuna. Instead, Europe is continuing to hide behind the fig-leaf offered by ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas), or rather its contractual parties.
Many of us believe that, ultimately, only a complete ban on commercial fishing would give the species a fighting chance of recovery. Failing that, ICCAT should be agreeing to completely close certain areas for bluefin fishing, particularly during the spawning season, rather than simply adopting half-hearted quotas that are not in line with scientific advice.
I tried this with the previous amendments to my report, but unfortunately, the majority of my colleagues did not follow this. That was bad luck. Still, I believe that the EU, as the main fisher of this stock, must accept a large chunk of responsibility for driving bluefin tuna to the brink. Tougher controls of the fleet and the related industry are also necessary to prevent illegal fishing and over-fishing. The EU must mobilise more resources to this end and assist other ICCAT members that lack the resources for proper enforcement. This is particularly true in the Mediterranean.
The EU legislation set to be adopted tomorrow represents the bare minimum and is simply a minimalist implementation of the international ICCAT recovery plan. While there are some slight improvements, with the reduction of the amount of bluefin tuna that can be caught and tightening of controls, it still falls far below what scientists believe is necessary to give the bluefin stock a fighting chance of recovery.
But I insist once again that there is nothing stopping the EU from adopting more ambitious measures. That is what I expected to have in the report and that is the least we can do in the future, especially when we meet with the other ICCAT contractual parties in November.
Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the Commission. – Madam President, on behalf of my colleague, Ms Damanaki, I would like to thank Mr Romeva for the work he has done on this report, and I am also very pleased to see the strong support from the Fisheries Committee on the substance of this important proposal.
The rapporteur is absolutely right: the recovery of bluefin tuna is a very important issue because this is the most important species covered by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and currently the only one subject to a multiannual recovery plan. The EU has been a leading force behind this multiannual recovery plan, and the aim of the Commission’s proposal is to transpose into EU law a recommendation adopted in the ICCAT framework. The recommendation sets out a number of management measures to support the recovery of bluefin tuna.
These measures were adopted by ICCAT as early as November 2010, and have been in force since June 2011. A week ago, and for the second time, we entered a fishing season without such management measures being transposed into EU law. This could jeopardise the uniform application of the measures within the EU and make them more difficult to enforce vis-à-vis individuals. It is therefore vital that we transpose ICCAT measures into EU law without delay. Not doing so would certainly set us back from a conservation standpoint, and it would also seriously undermine the credibility of the EU in ICCAT and internationally.
I therefore warmly welcome both colegislators’ efforts to conclude this matter rapidly. The Commission can accept the compromise text agreed in the last trialogue but it will make a declaration that this is without prejudice to its future position as regards recourse to implementing acts for the effective transposition of international conservation and management measures adopted by regional fisheries management organisations.
I would like, once again, to thank the rapporteur and the Fisheries Committee for their work, and I am looking forward to the debate.
Daciana Octavia Sârbu, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. – (RO) Madam President, we have the opportunity today to discuss one of the specific risks targeting food security: major threats to the global fish stocks. Fish plays a key role in a healthy diet, being one of the most recommended sources of animal protein. This vital resource is being decimated by unsustainable exploitation based on not only fishing practices which ignore long-term food security, but also on abuses deriving from illegal fishing.
I wish to thank the rapporteur for his efforts to tighten the regulations on the bluefin tuna fishery. At the same time, I am disappointed to say that his amendments and our similar amendments from the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety have not received sufficient support. The measures provided for by the new international agreement will ensure that existing regulations are implemented and enforced more effectively.
This is a hugely important step. I must thank those who have made it possible for these improvements to come into force before the start of the new season. However, the reality clearly shows us that these measures will not be adequate. Future agreements will have to be much more ambitious if we really intend to protect the marine environment and the source of healthy food it provides us with.
Carmen Fraga Estévez, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (ES) Madam President, unlike my colleagues, I believe that Parliament has managed to achieve a text for first reading that is very balanced between the measures needed for protection and recovery of the bluefin tuna agreed with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), maintaining fleet activity and the strengthening of control measures.
To do so, the Committee on Fisheries has removed some of the rapporteur’s extreme proposals, which would have led to the halting of the activity of the fleet of European vessels, and only European vessels, with the disastrous socio-economic consequences that would have been incurred.
It is worth remembering that since 2006, there have been successive recovery plans for bluefin tuna, and as well as the fact that to change the game rules half way through and for only the European fleet would be unfair and discriminatory, it is doubtful the sustainability of the resource would benefit, given that the rest of the fleets could continue to operate.
Lastly, I would like to insist on the need to shorten the period for the transposition of the recommendations adopted in the headquarters of the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) into EU law. In this case, the delay has been due to the incomprehensible opposition of the European Commission and some of Parliament’s groups to including provisions for implementing acts in the article of the regulation, which had reasonably been requested by the Council, with the aim of achieving legal security when it comes to the interpretation of particular technical aspects that could impede compliance with the control obligations set by ICCAT.
Our political group, therefore, will oppose Parliament’s unilateral declaration proposed in Amendment 4.
Chris Davies, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (microphone switched off) … of the world have been devastated, destroyed by up to 97% in recent decades. Others say that actually, the stocks are quite healthy and that we can carry on as we are with no problem at all.
There is a plan here to try to achieve maximum sustainable yield by 2022 and a restoration of biomass. This is a credible target. If we can indeed achieve that for fish stocks across the whole of the European Union, across the world, then we will be well pleased.
The control measures that ICCAT is introducing, the rules and regulations, are, on paper, as good as you will see anywhere. They are, in fact, tighter than those in place anywhere else. But this, of course, is not an ordinary fish. This is a fish, as the rapporteur has said, which can command prices of up to EUR 500 000 for a single fish. That means that every method that we try to put in place to control fishing activity will be circumvented if it can be circumvented. Organised crime may be involved, as the money that is involved in this industry is just huge. That is why quotas are being exceeded, why there have been illegal catches and cases of massive under-reporting and falsification of documents over the years.
Even now, the Pew Environment Trust is saying that, looking at the most recent figures from across the world, it is quite clear from the amount of world trade taking place that the quotas for the Mediterranean and the Atlantic bluefin tuna – quotas that in theory represent the maximum that can be caught – are being greatly exceeded.
Well, I suppose that this is a test: can we in practice ensure that bluefin tuna are protected and survive and that we are able to recover the species, or will we see it eliminated for the sake of greed? Well, what can we say? We are putting in the measures, we are calling for the maximum criminal penalties to be put in place to enforce those measures. But we will see as time passes whether we are successful or not.
Struan Stevenson, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, with regard to the sale of a bluefin tuna at the beginning of this year in the fish market in Tokyo, referred to by both Chris Davies and Mr Romeva i Rueda, the fish in question weighed 270 kilos and was sold for EUR 575 000, that is EUR 2 000 a kilo. That shows that what Chris Davies was saying is absolutely right. However, I have to correct him, as the average price for bluefin tuna is about USD 10 000, or the equivalent in euro.
Bluefin tuna are prized for their red, meaty flesh by sushi eaters, and the eastern Atlantic stock of bluefin tuna has been plundered to the point where it was almost listed as an endangered species in 2009. This, of course, met with fierce opposition from Japan, which consumes 80% of the world’s catch of bluefin tuna.
Such is the value of this iconic fish that it is estimated that around a third of the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock of bluefin tuna is being sold on the black market. This is, therefore, a hugely lucrative industry that often involves gangsters and other criminals. That is why the Romeva i Rueda report is so important. The bluefin tuna stocks have been slowly recovering due to the diligence of the European Fisheries Agency in Vigo, but more needs to be done. That is why we are calling for a further reduction in the annual Total Allowable Catch, with a tightening up of controls and further measures to reduce fleet capacity.
Of course, EU countries are not the only ones fishing in the Mediterranean basin, and that is why we need to see the provisions of the ICCAT fully implemented, with an end to rule-bending and an end to the impunity for illegal fishing that has led to decades of over-exploitation.
IN THE CHAIR: LÁSZLÓ SURJÁN Vice-President
Nikolaos Salavrakos, on behalf of the EFD Group. – (EL) Mr President, my congratulations to Mr Rueda on his report because, apart from his proposal on the inclusion of the new ICCAT recommendation on management of stocks of tuna, which are, of course, one of the most profitable catches, he has presented a series of proposals for the proper management of the marine environment as a whole. According to the European Commission, fisheries are at crisis point, due to overfishing of fish stocks by 75% and, in the Mediterranean basin, by 82%. The issue of illegal fisheries (IUU) should be tabled as a priority. Particular attention should be paid to taking appropriate measures to combat illegal fisheries and guarantee effective control, especially of third countries not in the European Union. Without doubt, the European Fisheries Control Agency in Vigo has achieved positive results. However, they are not enough.
Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE). – (PT) Mr President, I welcome the transposition into EU law of the recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which have, most recently, amended the multiannual recovery plan for bluefin tuna, thereby reinforcing the measures aimed at this stock’s recovery.
Recently, a level of bluefin tuna recovery has been recorded, but we need to go further, not just because the recovery level is not satisfactory, but also because the financial pressure on this fishery are very great, which encourages overfishing and even illegal practices.
Sound management of bluefin tuna, which can only be ensured by suitable multiannual recovery plans, is crucial from an environmental perspective, as well as socially and economically, as it will guarantee the future continuation of this valuable resource, which is the driving force behind an important fisheries sector.
That being the case, it is important to acknowledge that the ICCAT proposals currently being transposed into European legislation owing to statutory rules can be improved and have been improved by the EU itself, whose legislation in this regard is more ambitious than that of the ICCAT. However, I would stress that it is crucial to be aware, not just of the importance of preserving and protecting the bluefin tuna, but also of the need to guarantee an equitable situation for all operators in this sector and not simplistically adopt unilateral measures stepping up restrictions. It certainly is important that the European Union exercises genuine influence over the ICCAT on the promotion and implementation of sustainable and comprehensive conservation levels for all operators.
As such, the agreement between Parliament, the Council and the Commission constitutes an important step in the right direction, encouraging other agreements in the debate on reforming the common fisheries policy.
Guido Milana (S&D). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, to avoid repeating what my colleagues have already said, I personally believe that Europe really has no strategy either for the system of controls or for the means of implementing international agreements in the Mediterranean.
We must not forget that the Mediterranean comprises eight European and 22 non-European countries and that its bluefin tuna attract many fishermen from outside Europe. I therefore believe – regardless of whether Mr Romeva i Rueda’s good work could have gone further – that this debate is pointless if it does not lead to the Commission preparing a proper international relations proposal.
What is really needed is to establish new relationships on this subject, and on many others concerning fishing in the Mediterranean, in an effort to create the right conditions and making resources available for those countries that apply the same European rules. It would serve the interests of the tuna, of European fishing, and of Mediterranean fishing in particular.
Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE). – (ES) Mr President, I think the majority of the content of this report is along the lines of the need for the regulation of the exploitation of fishing resources to ensure they are sustainable.
It proposes control measures that are possible, realistic, proposed over the medium and long term, and based on scientific evidence, which are also compatible with the activities of European vessels, which should not need to be punished with unilateral agreements. The proposed measures are, therefore, a good contribution to the improvement of the regulation for bluefin tuna recovery.
As you are well aware, it is a complex issue due to demand, the prices this species fetch at market, the methods of breeding and fishing, and the geostrategic complications of some of the fishing grounds.
It has given the rapporteur the basis for a novel such as ‘Sayonara Sushi’, which has a good ending, which is what I hope happens with what is proposed in this report.
Elisabetta Gardini (PPE). – (IT) Mr President, we are debating a useful management tool that should be implemented as effectively as possible. I would like to address some critical aspects of the compromise.
First, creating sanctuaries and identifying spawning grounds. Researchers and scientific data confirm that creating sanctuaries in EU areas would damage only the European fishing industry while encouraging that of other countries; as we have heard, we are eight against at least 22. Sanctuaries are pointless for fish species that are highly migratory. Proper, rational and sustainable fishing management is surely much, much more sensible.
Furthermore, it has long been known that the tuna’s main spawning grounds are in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico, both of which contain very few areas where it does not reproduce on account of oceanographic conditions unfavourable to the tuna’s reproductive biology. As recent research has shown, even the length of the reproductive period can vary significantly.
As regards fixed tuna traps, I favour reviving a proposal put forward at the symposium of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas in Tangier in February 2011; this is an activity that has been practised for nearly 2 600 years. Therefore, why not grant the existing traditional fixed tuna traps UNESCO world heritage status?
Dolores García-Hierro Caraballo (S&D). – (ES) Mr President, I would first like to congratulate Mr Romeva. He really has drafted a wonderful and interesting report, but we are going to vote tomorrow on the Commission’s initial proposal which, rather than going into depth, has to transpose some measures demanded by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and which, for reasons that have already been stated, are on hold. Competitiveness issues have meant a plan that should be completed in 2013 has been on hold for two years.
We think it is very important that the measures are implemented immediately so that the sustainability and diversity that enrich our marine world are effectively guaranteed and, in that sense, that tuna as a species is effectively regulated, and that there need to be controls that allow the levels of Total Allowable Catch to be respected under the conditions proposed.
We agree in principle, although effectively, I agree that they are the minimum, and that they would need to have gone into more depth to really ensure the sustainability of bluefin tuna.
Alain Cadec (PPE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome the measures adopted by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), in particular, reducing the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean from 13 500 tonnes to 12 900 tonnes, tightening up controls, especially relating to the transfer of tuna to cages, and extending the closed season for purse seines in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.
I would add that tuna fishing is the most strictly regulated form of fishing within the European Union and probably one of the most tightly regulated in the world. I would therefore like to congratulate Mr Romeva i Rueda on his report.
I shall take this opportunity to set the record straight on the reform of the common fisheries policy currently being drafted. Conserving resources is obviously key to the success of this reform, and members of the Committee on Fisheries are well aware of this. Some now want to replace this committee with hard-hitting propaganda campaigns.
Please, let the members of this committee work at their own pace so that they can present MEPs with a project that is coherent and realistic. It is very important, in particular, to widen the practice of multiannual long-term management plans for fisheries and to target the maximum sustainable yield.
However, I want to reiterate my formal opposition to transferable fishing concessions that would kill off our fisheries model.
While you are here, Commissioner, I must tell you that France, contrary to what you have said, was not waiting for Mr Hollande to be elected for it to be a country of justice.
Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). – (SK) Mr President, sustainable fishing for bluefin tuna, and also other fish that are traded, logically means that we must respect safe biological limits in order to maintain the natural equilibrium of marine waters. A further reduction in the Total Allowable Catch is likely to be necessary but, in my opinion, the need to correctly identify and then provide support and protection for spawning grounds and existing control measures is a prerequisite for a successful recovery plan. In this respect, closer monitoring of international trade, along with proper documentation of all catches, will clearly help to reduce the influx of catches made in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa (PPE). – (PL) Mr President, the suggestions of the rapporteur concerning a move away from the passive approach to taking active steps to take control of the situation instead of just following the development of events are justified and should meet with agreement. The question then arises as to how to prepare and how to react in a situation when bluefin tuna fishing is, in many ways, exceptional. It is obvious that we should provide protection for spawning grounds, impose a minimum size of tuna which can be caught and set up caging operations, not to mention the creation of reserves, but this is not enough. We need to think more globally by ensuring consistency with other legal obligations. We know what needs to be done, but often there is a lack of political will. The profits from these catches are so high that they encourage people to engage in harmful and, of course, illegal fishing. Measures have been provided for international management and supervision and we are moving in the right direction. Let us hope that this time, we will be successful.
End of the catch-the-eye procedure
Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, let me thank all those who have taken part in this discussion, and also all those who are going to vote so that the decision can be put in place, because it is high time that this was done.
You have made very valuable contributions: they have been noted down and I will convey them to my colleague, Commissioner Damanaki.
Raül Romeva i Rueda, rapporteur. – (ES) Mr President, to start with, I think it is important to recognise not only the effort, but also the political will shown by many in this case.
It is a complex issue; it is a sensitive issue; it is an issue that involves a lot of money; it is an issue that clearly creates a lot of economic interest in many different sectors and, for that reason, is deserving of political attention that it has been deprived of up to now.
It is true that it is an issue that sometimes provokes drama, which unfortunately, as in the case of the novel that was mentioned, is less fiction than it would appear to be. Some of these plots are more realistic than the author would have liked.
I think it is important, however, to stress that what we are going to approve tomorrow is essential; it is necessary; it is vital.
I will say it again: it is not what I would have wanted. I think there was an opportunity for the European Union to show that it really is playing a leading role in this debate. The bare minimum has been applied, which is what the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) international framework demands. Even so, it is essential, it is necessary.
We have a few months to prepare for the next ICCAT meeting, taking place in Morocco in November, and that will be an essential meeting given that we will have the ‘stock assessment’. We will know exactly, or have a very good approximation of the size of the ‘stock’ and we will have to take reasonable measures, including, if necessary, closing one area of a sector, and I am referring, for example, to seine fishing, and perhaps some specific parts of the coastline when it comes to the spawning areas.
We have a few months to work on a proposal that I consider and insist should be much more ambitious than the one we are going to vote on tomorrow.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Wednesday, 23 May 2012.
Written statements (Rule 149)
David Martin (S&D), in writing. – The history of management of the bluefin tuna fishery is long, complicated and, thus far at least, not crowned with success. Though the stock has been fished for millennia, the problems began in earnest in the 1990s, when the practice of caging bluefin was introduced in order to fatten them up for the Japanese market. Japanese market demand was met through an uncontrolled – and, in the case of the EU, heavily subsidised – expansion in the size of the purse seine fleet targeting the Mediterranean stock.
The complexity of the fishery and the need for constant vigilance on the part of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) are demonstrated by the volume of regulation. During the past 20 years, 64 management measures have been adopted, of which 13 are still in effect. Two are of particular importance. The recovery plan was first adopted in 2006, when it was 14 pages long, including annexes. It was amended in 2008, 2009 and again in 2010, by which time it had swollen to 30 pages. There is also a catch documentation scheme, adopted in 2007 and amended in 2008 and 2009. I hope the ICCAT bluefin recovery plan can succeed where, so far, we have failed.
Claudiu Ciprian Tănăsescu (S&D), in writing. – (RO) I welcome the fact that the recommendation made by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has already been adopted at international level. I think that ICCAT could do more to adapt to the current situation in fishing. We can already see, admittedly, some changes for the better with regard to the situation of bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. However, important steps need to be taken now. I wholeheartedly welcome the position of the rapporteur who feels that the EU should not wait for the ICCAT initiatives but should adopt alone robust precautionary measures in keeping with the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. I welcome the idea of declaring the main spawning zones of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, which lie within EU jurisdiction, closed areas or sanctuaries, thereby banning fishermen from having access to these zones during the spawning season. I am aware that the EU not only sets out some very tight regulations in this area, but also spends considerable sums specifically to comply with these regulations. I am pleased that we are making a major contribution to the conservation of bluefin tuna, but I believe that we can do even far more than this.