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Borg Welcomes Conclusions Reached At SEAFO Meeting

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

11 October 2006

The European Commission's Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner, Joe Borg last week welcomed the positive conclusions reached at the annual meeting of the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation, currently chaired by the EU.

The main debate at the meeting centred around the issue of sensitive habitats and the Scientific Council recommendation to close certain areas with seamounts, and conduct small scale experimental fisheries to gather data.

The EU’s proposal to close 10 such areas for 2007-2010 was approved. Other measures to fight illegal fishing practices were agreed, including a ban on transhipments in the SEAFO area, and a process to identify and blacklist vessels practising illegal fishing activities.

SEAFO members agreed the following eco-system based conservation measures, which aim at ensuring sustainable and responsible fisheries in the South East Atlantic waters:

  • Ban transhipments at sea in order to combat illegal fishing practices.
  • Identify and blacklist vessels which undertake illegal fishing activities.
  • Control and monitor fisheries through setting up of a record of vessels, placing scientific observers on board vessels, and applying the satellite-based vessel monitoring system (VMS) and catch reporting requirements.
  • Reduce incidental mortality of seabirds, especially petrels and albatrosses, by adjusting fishing gear and using other technical measures.
  • Ban shark finning whereby valuable shark fins are cut off and retained on board while the rest of the carcass is thrown overboard.
  • Reduce incidental mortality of sea turtles in fishing operations through immediate release of turtles caught in fishing gear.

Borg observed that:

“The agreement reached at the SEAFO meeting shows the significant role that Regional Fisheries Management Organisations can and must play in protecting sensitive marine habitats."

"This positive development, hot on the heels of the positive decisions taken in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation last week, strengthens the position that the EU has put forward at the General Assembly of the United Nations this week on banning destructive fishing practices."

He went on to add that:

"Wherever scientific advice indicates the need to protect sensitive marine habitats, RFMOs – and flag states, where RFMOs are not yet up and running – have to assume their responsibility."

Commissioner Borg also welcomed the cooperation of Norway in the negotiations and the indication by South Africa that it would join SEAFO in the near future.

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