Damanaki: Libyan bluefin is illegal
In a letter to European Union ministers on Wednesday, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki asserted that bluefin tuna caught by Libyan-flagged vessels or in Libyan waters will be deemed illegal.
Damanaki’s warning comes after Libyan authorities the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) that its purse-seine fleet will fish for bluefin after initially suspending fishing activities.
Libya failed to submit its fishing plan for the season to ICCAT by the 1 March deadline, so it’s not allowed to fish for bluefin, said Damanaki, adding that ICCAT will not deploy observers on Libyan vessels due to “the potential security risks.” Libya has been engulfed in a civil war since February, when rebels first tried to overthrow the country’s de facto ruler and dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
“This issue — and the impact that unauthorized fishing activity and trade in 2011 — could have high importance with regards to the recovery plan for bluefin tuna,” said Damanaki in the letter. “In addition, I stand ready to consider the possibility of complementary actions that could be triggered through the EU regulation on illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries.”
Both the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace had called on ICCAT to suspend purse-seine bluefin fishery after Libya said it will allow fishing in its waters despite the lack of fishing plan.
The purse-seine bluefin fishery in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic opened on Monday, and Damanaki has made it clear that EU member states must take “all necessary measures” to ensure “full compliance” by their vessels during the month-long harvest.