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Two days ago I reported about the commencing of the EU Fisheries talks. Today it's over and done with. I'll recap the main outcomes.
As expected the sorry states of the various cod stocks ended up being the main discussion points. Scientists stated that stocks will only have a change to recover with a total ban on cod fishing for the next years. This was of course ruled out by the politicians before talks even started.
When talks started the commission advised a 25% cut in catches. This went down and down to 12%. In the end ministers agreed on 20% cuts in the Celtic sea and west Scotland area, and 14 to 20% in the Northsea. As for individual trawlers the cuts in quota depends on -among other things- mesh size of trawling gear and location. The number of fishing days -days a month a ship is allowed to be at sea catching its quota- will be limited with another 7 to 10%. As some kind of -ecologically sound?- compensation the quota for valuable species as prawn, haddock, mackerel and monkfish have gone up a bit.
The crippling anchovy fishing in the Bay of Biscay -the key trawling ground for this short lived species- has been tricky business for years between France and Spain. Being put on a hold for most of 2006 it was interesting to see what would happen as the advice was full closure until June 2007. Decided is now on a carefully monitored, fairly limited, fisheries with 28 ships, unequally divided between the two countries as Spain traditionally gets a larger portion.
In line with other agreements the ministers agreed on a 10% reduction in Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna catches. Too less too late.
Roughly 75% of all plaice and 37% of all sole fishing in the EU is done by Dutch fishermen, easily making these the most important fisheries for the Dutch trawler fleet. TACs (Total Allowable Catch, quota) go down with 15% and 12,5% respectively. Most of the other fisheries important for the Dutch fleet get a similar quota as previous years. fishing days -regulating how many days of the year a vessel is allowed to be out catching its quota- will go down with 8% (compared to 10% EU wide, just shows again Dutch minister Veerman is mostly interested in the economical side of things). A multi year strategy to manage plaice and sole fisheries is introduced to ease the yearly uncertainty. This might help a bit getting the fisheries within safe biological limits sooner.
Electric fishing is an interesting one I only just noticed. It seems that all member states have the right to allow 5% of their fleet to fish with the pulse-rig system. This would mean about 8 vessels for the Dutch. Think I'll make a separate post on this.
All in all I'm not too sure what to think of all this. It seems like -as always- a compromise between economic and ecological interests has been made. Again a cutback in the fishing effort has been made and everyone agrees on decreasing fishing capacity more -30%- in the next couple of years. Will this be enough, I doubt it. Fact is though: the scientific advise is again ignored and overruled in favour of short term economics.
One of the best nature documentaries around is episode nine (Shallow Seas) of the Blue Planet series. It contains one fragment in particular which shows the fierceness of ocean life. This is an amazing shot of a Great White shark (Carcharodon carcharias) attacking a Cape Fur seal. It's worth watching the whole episode if you have the change. Episodes six (Ice Worlds) and eleven (Ocean Deep) are also great infotainment btw.
The yearly European fisheries talks are on again, starting today. During the talks is decided -well, haggled as science often has not much to do with it- who can take what in 2007. The BBC News website has a short -yet fairly complete- article about it. Main issues are expected to be the sorry state of the cod stocks -which are well below safe biological levels of fishing- as well as a smaller herring quota.
The BBC also has an interview with fisherman George Steven -which I think is spelled wrong on the site and should be George Stephen, often speaking out on these issues- that is worth listening to. He does not dismiss the problems with the dwindling stocks. At the same time he does not agree with how the fisheries are managed though and dismisses fisheries as being the problem. He also argues many fishermen will go bankrupt when management measures to protect the collapse of the stock are put in place.
What's worse: Having two more years of reasonable fishing followed by a complete ecological and economical collapse like what happened on the Grand Banks in 1992. Or have some -serious- economical problems now but end up with a sustainable, manageable, stock and associated fisheries for the years to come?
Every year the ice-classed research vessel the Polarstern goes out to the Antarctic and the Arctic on expeditions to improve our knowledge of the polar seas. This year it is working on the Census for Antarctic Marine Life which is part of the wider Census for Marine Life.
On the ship is Dr. Gauthier Chapelle from the Polar Foundation who is posting regular updates on various websites as well as some impressive videos on the The Cousteau Society's website. If you have never seen an agitated seal frantically hopping away from a large ice-breaker it is definitely worth a visit!
...or: The impact of climatic variation on the opportunity for sexual selection.
Sometimes science can be interesting as well as funny. A recent report by behavioural ecology scientist Sean Twiss describes why a lack of rainwater pools which normally provide drinking water, combined with the related longer travel times, leads to more action between strangers in some areas (between seals that is).
In the end this probably leads to a widening of the gene pool (because now the poor one-legged seal can also reproduce...). The question if this is positive for the species as a whole is not answered.
A newspaper article (with revealing photo): [link]
The original report by Dr Sean Twiss: [link]