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Urgent action needed to prevent tuna decline, warns NGO

The European Union (EU) must change its approach to fishing to prevent a decline in tuna, an environmental non-profit BLOOM has warned.

The organisation is recommending that the EU bring in policies to ban the use of artificial rafts, known as Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), which catch all marine life, leaving no chance for them to escape.

FADs use objects such as bamboo, coconuts and ribbons to attract fish and have become very popular, with EU tuna companies making 96% of their catches in the Indian Ocean in 2018 using the technology.

They have been criticised by scientists in the past, as they’re known to pose a threat to juvenile fish, turtles, seals and dolphins, as they become entangled in nets and ropes.

gray tuna fish

At intergovernmental meetings held by the by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) until February 5, with 30 states set to take part, the EU is proposing for ‘biodegradable’ FADs to be put in place.

But BLOOM has criticised this, saying it would do nothing to limit bycatch, and is instead urging the Commission to support suggestions from India and Kenya.

India has tabled a ban on FADs from 2024 at the meetings, which could help the EU to meet aims to make fishing sustainable and rebuild yellowfin tuna populations.

On discussions over ‘allocation criteria’, Indian Ocean countries plan to argue that what is caught in their waters belongs to them, while the EU will stick to historical precedent, saying that the catch be theirs.

BLOOM says this stance has been widely applied in the EU and has led to the shrinking of small-scale coastal fishing communities, as well as being inconsistent with objectives to ‘reduce poverty’ and mitigate ‘climate change’.

The organisation said: ‘We call on the EU to completely overhaul its neo-colonial stance regarding the allocation criteria for future quotas. The principle of historical precedence is a major social and environmental failure in Europe. The EU cannot let History repeat itself in the Indian Ocean given the current urge to protect marine ecosystems and local coastal communities in the face of rapid changes induced by the extinction of species and climate change.’

Kenya’s proposal to limit FAD numbers to 150 per fishing vessel and to phase out ‘supply vessels’ has also been got support from the group.

A possible FAD register and geolocation monitoring could also allow for more accurate locations and figures of how many are in operation.

BLOOM added: ‘Today, BLOOM calls on the EU to take a stance for sustainable fisheries and social justice through truly fair partnership agreements with developing countries and by supporting India’s proposal on FADs, Kenya’s proposal on transparency and the claims of coastal countries instead of obeying its fishing industry.’

Photo by kate

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