From: Raf Casert, Associated Press
Published January 20, 2006 12:00 AM

EU Head Office Says Enforcement of Fishing Rules to Protect Stocks is Seriously Flawed

BRUSSELS — Most European Union nations are not doing enough to police fishing restrictions aimed at keeping dinner favorites such as the once-common cod from commercial extinction, according to a report published Thursday.

In its annual "fisheries scoreboard," the EU head office said Ireland and Spain were the worst offenders when it came to applying catch quotas on endangered fish in 2004.

Only two EU countries -- Belgium and Sweden -- were in line with properly reporting fishing efforts from their national fleets, it said.

Incidents of serious breaches in fishing rules have been increasing recently, after declining earlier in the decade. Without proper application of the rules "the winners are those who cheat and can make quite a lot of money," EU spokeswoman Mireille Thom said.

The most common problem is illegal fishing, the report said.


"Clearly, detection rates and the level of fines applied in such cases are failing to deter wrongdoers," the report said.

"Failure to enforce fisheries measures works against the interests of fishermen as it leads to overfishing, depleted fish stocks, smaller catches and shrinking incomes," EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said.

The EU will set up the European fisheries control agency later this year. As it stands now though, EU inspectors still see far too much illegal fishing, which worsens the already critical situation for many catches. Illegal and unreported fishing "can lead to a situation in which many fisheries remain open, despite the fact that they are being overfished, sometimes long after the related quotas have been filled," the report said.

Environmentalists and scientists have long claimed that the current rules, even when properly respected, fall woefully short of keeping fishing sustainable in the EU's Atlantic waters.

The latest EU measures agreed in December fall far short of recommendations on fishing bans and reduced catch quotas made by independent experts to protect shrinking fish stocks.

Scientists say North Sea stocks have shrunk to about a tenth of 1970 levels, and warned of depletion on the scale of eastern Canadian waters, where cod disappeared in the 1990s and stocks have yet to recover.

Source: Associated Press

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