Greece must act to replenish fish stocks: Greenpeace
By Karolos Grohmann
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece should immediately set up marine reserves to replenish depleted fish stocks due to overfishing or face a collapse of the industry, Greenpeace said on Thursday.
The environmental group's call, which came as the EU announced lower-than-expected cuts for 2008 catch quotas, said stocks in the Aegean and Ionian seas had fallen dramatically in recent years.
"We will constantly see a drop in catches and size and graver problems lie ahead," Greenpeace oceans campaigner Sofia Tsenikli said. "The government must immediately impose marine reserves where fishing will be prohibited to allow stocks to recover."
EU countries on Wednesday struck a deal for 2008 catch quotas that watered down proposals for the preservation of species whose stocks are at precariously low levels, angering environmental groups.
Greece has among the largest fishing fleets in the EU by numbers with 18,040 registered vessels in 2006, some 2,500 fewer boats than in 1998. Most of the fleet is small, coastal fishing vessels.
In 2006 Greeks fished about 90,000 tonnes, about half the amount compared to 1994, mainly due to depleted stocks. The fish were also on average smaller in size.
More than a decade of heavy fishing by big trawlers and lack of a national strategy have led to the decline, marked by dips of bluefin tuna, mullet and hake, the National Fishermen's Union (SAE) said.
By the end of this year Greece's agriculture ministry must present proposals for areas where some forms of fishing will be banned in line with the EU's Mediterranean fishing regulation, but so far has not revealed its plans.
(Writing by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by Michael Kahn)