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Date: Fri, 21 Mar 97 17:29:18 CST
From: (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Dissent & Confusion Surrounds North Sea Fisheries Talks
/** headlines: 192.0 **/
** Topic: Dissent & Confusion Surrounds North Sea Fisheries Talks **
** Written 4:02 PM Mar 20, 1997 by econet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 5:37 AM Mar 18, 1997 by in env.marine */
/* ---------- "North Sea Fisheries" ---------- */

Dissent and Confusion Surround North Sea Fisheries Talks

World Wide Fund for Nature Press Release 00.01, 13 March 1997

Bergen, Norway: As Environmental and Fisheries Ministers fly in today to tackle the difficult problem of integrating fisheries management in the North Sea with overall marine environmental protection, six European offices of WWF, the international conservation organisation, urged the ministers to come to a meaningful agreement to halt the overfishing of an ever dwindling resource.

With more than 200 species of fish, the North Sea is one of the most productive fisheries in the world - but many of the most commercially important stocks are almost at the point of collapse. At the same time certain seabirds and marine mammals, as well as marine habitats are being seriously affected by indiscriminate fishing practices, including by-catch and discarding.

Two years ago, at the fourth International Conference on the Protection of the North Sea, Environmental Ministers and members of the European Commission were agreed that the situation was so urgent it needed "immediate" attention. This Intermediate Ministerial (IMM) was convened to concentrate on the impacts of fisheries policies and methods on the North Sea ecosystems.

So far, however, there has dissent and confusion surrounding the preparatory processes with weakening of the draft text of the Ministerial Statment of Conclusions - and the European Commission insisting on their exclusive competence. In particular, specific wording on targets and timetables has been completely removed.

Many of the Environment Ministers want to encompass interactions between fisheries, species, habitats and the North Sea food web in a more stringent way. They feel that the urgency of the situation is such that the political processes need to be unblocked.

Stephan Lutter, Head of the WWF Delegation to the talks said today: "Time is running out. Unless the Ministers want to see other fish stocks going down the same road as herring and cod, they must counterbalance the sort of approach to fisheries management where the EU waits for a disaster before taking action. By which time, it's too late. The outcome of this IMM must not be neutralised by internal politics because the EU prefers to wait until 2002 and the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy."

WWF is urging Ministers to put immediate recovery plans in place for those North Sea stocks that are currently overfished, threatened and depleted, which may require the establishment of marine refuges, closed or undisturbed areas. For the benefit of other species of marine wildlife Ministers must agree actions to control specific practices such as beam trawling and consider a discard ban before 2002. Industrial fishing, for the production of fishmeal and oil, should also be controlled more stringently.

For further information the WWF Delegation is contactable in Bergen at:

Stephan Lutter 49 172 421 2396
Chris Tydeman 44 860 785 058
Indrani Lutchman and Cherry Farrow 44 468 721170
NGO Room 47 55 54 31 42 or fax 47 55 54 30 71

WWF- Fachbereich Meere & Kuesten, World Wide Fund for Nature,
WWF Marine & Coastal Division, Am Guethpol 11, D-28757 Bremen,
Tel: +49 421 65846-16, Fax -12