EU backs out of full protection for Atlantic bluefin tuna

Undercurrentnews reports, 2nd May 2014: The European Union has backed out of implementing the full version of an electronic bluefin catch documentation system that was hoped could combat the trade in illegally-caught tuna, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

After many years of delays and adjustments to the new electronic bluefin catch database (eBCD), the system had been expected to be ready for full implementation in March 2015. But the EU, which originally proposed the transition to an electronic system capable of closing loopholes allowing illegal trade, and championed the move since, last month introduced a proposal to water down the system, said Rachel Hopkins, officer with Pew’s Global Tuna Conservation project.

“This means all traders in all countries, including those involved in trade between EU countries, would be allowed to use the old paper system, with no requirement to use the electronic system until trade actually leaves the EU, no matter how large the trade is,” she explained. “This is a major about-face on the part of the EU, especially given fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki has been repeatedly vocal in calling for the EU to be at the forefront of ending illegal fishing — to the degree that it’s advised other countries of the potential blacklisting of their products from the EU.” The EU is the largest player in the eastern Atlantic quota, holding 59%, and 52% of the total Atlantic bluefin quota, with substantial trade within borders.

For its part, the EU fisheries and maritime affairs commission said it was, “of course, aware that an electronic system would make controls much tighter, but in the absence of such a system a paper-based scheme is better than no system”, in a statement sent to Undercurrent News. There are, however, ongoing discussions on a possible database with member states, it added.

“The catch documentation scheme for bluefin tuna in ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) is fully recognized under the IUU regulation (Annex V of Regulation 1010/2009). But even if an electronic system is introduced for the bluefin tuna catch document in ICCAT, the remaining trade under the IUU regulation is covered by a paper-based system.”

Both the commission and the member states are interested in working within an electronic system and discussions are ongoing, the EU spokesperson said.


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