Bluefin

As purse seiners take to the Mediterranean in search of bluefin tuna, European Union Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki isn’t mincing words.

On Monday, the first day large purse seiners are allowed to target bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, Damanaki warned EU member states to take “all necessary measures” to ensure “full compliance” by their vessels during the month-long fishery.

Vessels from seven member states are active in the fishery: Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Malta and Cyprus. The EU’s 2011 quota is 5,756 metric tons, down from 7,087 metric tons last year. More than half of the quota is harvested by the purse-seine fleet.

Damanaki reiterated that a “strict” program is in place for bluefin tuna, including deployment of inspectors, patrol vessels and aircrafts, managed by the European Commission, the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) and member states. The EC also monitors catches and analyzes vessel-monitoring system data on an hourly basis.

As for Libyan-flagged vessels, the EC is “closely monitoring the situation and will address it appropriately through the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and its own legal instruments,” said Damanaki.

Last week, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace called on ICCAT to suspend the purse-seine bluefin tuna fishery following Libya’s announcement that it will allow fishing in its waters despite lack of fishing plan.

Nearly half the fisherman in the France’s port of Sete will be grounded for the season after the unrest in Libya caused fishing permits to be axed for their Libyan-owned boats. Ten of the bluefin tuna vessels operating out of Sete will remain tied up because they are owned by Libyan companies with links to Muammar Gaddafi, Reuters reported on Thursday.

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