Indian Ocean species caught between local, EU interests
MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Indian Ocean countries wanting better safeguards for local marine life by updating fishing quotas and restricting harmful catch methods are facing resistance from the European Union, conservation groups say.
Officials are gathering in Mombasa, Kenya on Friday for a meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission — a group of 30 countries who regulate and manage the ocean’s tuna. India plans to propose to eliminate the use of high-tech devices to scoop vast amounts of marine life and Kenya wants a limit on the devices and more transparency on tuna fisheries.
But the EU, which uses the fishing methods other countries want to limit, appears set to oppose the plans.
Bloom, a Paris-based nongovernmental organization focused on ocean conservation, said the EU should reconsider its stance and join calls by other countries in the region to protect marine life.
“We urge the EU to abandon its past colonial stance on allocation of quotas,” said Bloom’s scientific director, Frédéric Le Manach. “The EU cannot let history repeat itself.”
More than 100 environmental conservation groups have called for a halt to the large-scale depletion of stocks and damage to marine species caused by industrial methods which catch vast numbers of tuna.
“Vacuuming millions of juvenile tuna … is not okay,” said Seychellois ecologist Nirmal Jivan Shah. “What kind of society do we live in when the value of the ocean is reduced to a tuna can?”
The Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna is currently listed as “overfished,” according to the Global Tuna Alliance.
Last year the commission failed to agree on what to do about concerns raised by the EU on issues like rebuilding yellowfin tuna stocks and new measures to manage drift nets. The bloc said the failure to reach consensus was “a missed opportunity for the sustainable management of the Indian Ocean fisheries.”
The EU is now proposing that countries adopt biodegradable drift nets. But Manach said the plan is a “joke” that won’t “change anything in the current disastrous situation.”
The Associated Press reached out to the bloc’s IOTC delegation for comment.
Talks between member-country officials in Mombasa are scheduled until Sunday.