A storm is building between France, Italy and the European fisheries authority over prize sushi.
At a meeting of the EU ministers for fishing held in Luxembourg, France’s defender of the fishermen, minister Michel Barnier, has rejected the European Commission’s ban on catching bluefin tuna using purse seine (‘sane’) nets in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. France begins its turn at the EU rotating presidency next week.
Calling the recent decision ‘brutal’, Barnier said: “I contest the way it was taken. The figures are the ones we gave them, but they have interpreted them and made projections. They’ve run simulations that do not match ours. There is a problem. If the figures I have are off, I would say so. I’d own up to it.”
At fisheries control headquarters in Brussels, every EU country’s vessels are tracked. The agency also collates information collected by its inspectors. It has found planes spotting prey for the trawlers, even though this is “completely illegal”.
The Commission’s operational director says part of the French fleet claims it has caught nothing: “three weeks’ fishing… zero catch declared. That’s either incompetence or fraud.”
Some critics of the method to catch bluefin, which fetches a high price on the sushi market, say ‘purse seine nets are the marine equivalent of cluster bombs’, so it is no wonder the stocks are scraping bottom. Spain is also said to be flouting the rules.