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The main Bluefin Tuna fishing season runs from 26 May to 24 June; this is when large vessels, purse seiners, are allowed to fish for Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and the Eastern Atlantic.
The Bluefin tuna fishery is regulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to which the EU is a contracting party.
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Bluefin tuna fishing campaign 2011 – Commissioner Damanaki sends a letter to EU Ministers on Libya

Press release - 18/5/2011

Statement by Commissioner Maria Damanaki:

Today, I sent a letter to all relevant EU Ministers, pointing out that the Libyan fishing and inspection plans have not been endorsed by the Compliance Committee of ICCAT, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which is responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas.

Due to the initial voluntary suspension of its fishery by the Libyan authorities, no mail vote by the Commission took place to suspend the 2011 Libyan fishing for bluefin tuna. This suspension was later on withdrawn by the Libyan authorities and a recent communication exchange between ICCAT and representatives of the Libyan authorities makes clear that the Libyan purse seine fleet intends to engage in fishing activities for bluefin tuna during the forthcoming campaign.

However, on account of the passing of the deadline for participation in the 2011 Regional Observer Programme and the potential security risks to observers, the ICCAT Executive Secretary has confirmed that no Regional Observers will be deployed on Libyan vessels.

On this basis, bluefin tuna caught by the Libyan fleet will be well on track to be deemed illegal by the ICCAT Compliance Committee, as potentially non-compliance with ICCAT conservation and management measures.

I therefore urged EU Ministers to monitor the fishing activities of these vessels, as well as the activities of their national operators with those vessels, in line with our obligations as Contracting Party to ICCAT.

In particular, obligations arising from ICCAT Recommendations and from EU law prohibit domestic trade, landing, imports, exports, placing in cages for farming, re-exports and transhipments of bluefin tuna species that are not accompanied by accurate, complete and validated documentation.

Finally, given that the Commission did not receive by the 1 March deadline information on any private trade arrangements between its nationals and any other ICCAT Contracting Party, the Commission will consider that no private trade arrangement involving EU nationals and another ICCAT Contracting party will be authorised in 2011, and thus that no EU vessel will fish in the Libyan fishing zone.

This issue -and the impact that unauthorised fishing activity and trade in 2011- could have high importance with regards to the recovery plan for bluefin tuna.

In addition, I stand ready to consider the possibility of complementary actions that could be triggered through the EU Regulation on illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries.