The European Commission has once again thwarted the French and Spanish governments’ plans by closing the fishing grounds until December 2006.
The poor state of the anchovy stock in the Cantabrian fishing grounds has once again obliged the European Commission to close them down for the second consecutive year. The aim is to try to alleviate the serious mistakes made by the French and Spanish governments which, despite opposition from scientists, allowed anchovy fishing to continue with ridiculously high quotas.
The European Commission, with the support and advice of the EU’s Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, has decided to close this fishery as a matter of urgency and keep it closed until the end of 2006, at which time fishing quotas will be discussed again.
Oceana believes that this closure was very necessary and welcomes the decision. However, it also believes that it is too short, as “the fishing grounds should not be re-opened until we are absolutely sure that the stock has recovered and the anchovy biomass is large enough to allow sustainable fishing in the future.”
“We cannot leave the chance that the grounds will be re-opened in just a few months in the hands of politicians, who have once again demonstrated their inability to manage fisheries. Clear and unequivocal scientific criteria need to be established, and only when these are met should fishing activities resume”, says Xavier Pastor, the Director of Oceana in Europe.
Oceana has written to the European Commission and European governments on numerous occasions to ask them to follow scientific advice and adopt the necessary conservation measures to prevent the collapse of anchovy stocks. These include the indefinite closure of the fishery until the stock has fully recovered, the creation of a permanent closed zone in the anchovy breeding grounds in the Bay of Biscay, and a ban on destructive fishing methods such as pelagic trawling.
Many of the Cantabrian fishermen’s associations are also critical of the French and Spanish governments’ policies and are calling for effective measures to be taken, including the closure of the fishery.