EU fisheries ministers are locked in two-day talks to decide on the future of EU fish stocks, as alarm grows about species crash. The talks are centering on deep sea fishing for next year and 2008, and big cuts in catches are being proposed for anything netted between 400 and 2000 metres deep.
Ecosystems at that depth are highly vulnerable, and are little known; one reason being given for opposing overly-strict quotas by some EU member states. The European Commission’s original proposal to slash catches by a third next year and as much the year after are already being watered down, but the compromises on the table appear to satisfy no-one. The Mediterranean is the most threatened zone, with species like sole almost driven to extinction by overfishing in the last 10 years. The big fishing nations like France, Spain, and Portugal may only accept cuts of around 15 percent.
The Commission is also recommending enlarging net meshes to allow the small fry to escape and grow, and setting up more temporary and permanent off-limits zones to allow stocks to recover. It is also trying to get satellite monitoring systems on board every fishing vessel. For two years the Commission has struggled in vain to get cuts, and this bid may also fail.