News | Sunday, 07 December 2008

Malta tuna discrepancy raised in European Parliament

A Spanish MEP representing the European Greens has raised an apparent discrepancy concerning Malta’s claims of a carry-over of live tuna from 2007 to 2008 in the European Parliament.
During a meeting between the Parliament’s fisheries committee and the executive director of the Community Fisheries Control Agency, Dr Harm Koster, MEP Raul Romeva de Reuda last Tuesday drew attention to a “data anomaly” regarding Malta’s carry-over declarations, identified by conservation groups at last month’s ICCAT meeting in Marrakech.
These anomalies include a glaring discrepancy between the data supplied by the Fisheries Minister in parliament, and those submitted to the European Commission’s DG-Mare by the Fisheries Division.
In the latter case, fisheries director Dr Anthony Gruppetta gave a break-down of individual caging declarations for the 1,347 tonnes of live bluefin tuna allegedly carried over to 2008. This included numerous instances of French and Italian-caught tuna transferred to Maltese cages.
However, Fisheries Minister George Pullicino, in reply to a parliamentary question last month, supplied a completely different break-down, mentioning fish caught under Libyan, Moroccan, Korean and Maltese quotas, but not Italian or French. On his part, Gruppetta did not include any Korean-caught tuna. And yet, the amount concrerned – 1,346.639 tonnes, for a total market value, at €20 a kilo, of over €20 million – was the same for both declarations.
No explanation has so far been forthcoming to account for this anomaly. Commenting to MaltaToday immediately after this meeting last Tuesday, Romeva de Rueda explained that it was not possible for both these contradictory declarations to be correct.
“At a glance it appears that either the figures supplied by the Fisheries Division were incorrect, or the Minister misled the Maltese parliament,” he said.
Another anomaly raised at this meeting concerns the quantities transferred into individual cages. According to the Fisheries Division, the amount of tuna inputted into these cages would result in a density ranging from 3.32kg/m3 to over 4kg/m3.
Such density is considered unfeasible and unprofitable by industry insiders, especially over long periods of time, as in these circumstances fish may experience stress and pathogenic reactions, resulting in high mortality rates, as well as unacceptable levels of allergy-inducing histamine.
Nationalist MEP David Casa, who was also present for the meeting, separately confirmed that this discussion took place, and indirectly hinted that an investigation into the matter is in fact already under way.
“I would like to inform you that an exchange of views with Mr Harm Koster, executive director of the Community Fisheries Control Agency, was held yesterday afternoon during the PECH meeting just after we voted,” he said on Wednesday. “I confirm that such comments about an investigation on Malta were made. Just after the meeting I asked the Commission to give me more information about the subject. If needs be I will comment after the investigation is over.”
However, the Commission has denied it is currently investigating this data anomaly, and it has meanwhile proved impossible to confirm whether any information was passed onto Casa as requested.


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