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EU moves to lift 15-month ban on Sri Lanka fish exports
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) April 22, 2016

Study draws attention to long-overlooked group of giant plankton
Paris (UPI) Apr 22, 2016 - Rhizaria, a unique group of protists, have been overlooked for too long -- at least according to a team of marine biologists from France and Germany.

Rhizaria make up some 33 percent of large zooplankton in the ocean, and more than 5 percent of the total marine biomass. That's a lot. Yet, few scientists have taken a closer look at this particular group of marine plankton.

Plankton are the anchor nearly every single marine ecosystem. They are of tremendous importance to understanding biological systems in the ocean and how those systems interact with and are affected by the atmosphere and the changing climate.

With their latest study, published this week in Nature, marine biologists with the French National Centre for Scientific Research are trying to focus attention on one of the more overlooked groups of plankton. Their efforts are buoyed by a novel "in situ" imaging system, whereby plankton are imaged and analyzed in their habitat -- or "in place."

Researchers deployed underwater cameras at varying depths in all of the planet's major oceanic regions. In all, scientists captured and analyzed 1.8 million images of plankton communities.

The results prove Rhizaria species account for an outsized portion of marine biomass. They're also unevenly distributed, accounting for a larger share of the biomass found in nutrient-poor regions found in open ocean waters.

"The presence of Rhizaria in all the planet's oceans had previously been completely overlooked," researchers wrote in a press release.

Scientists hope their findings encourage researchers to pay closer attention to Rhizaria and other overlooked groups of protists.

"Plankton are gradually giving up their secrets, unveiling unsuspected wealth and diversity."

The European Union has proposed lifting a 15-month ban on fish exports from Sri Lanka after it said the country has cracked down on illegal fishing.

The 28-nation bloc has meanwhile warned the Pacific island nation of Kiribati as well as Sierre Leone and Trinidad and Tobago that they risked bans if they failed to do more to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, proposed Thursday Sri Lanka be removed from the blacklist it had imposed in February last year after it amended its legal framework, strengthened sanctions and improved its fleet control.

"The Commission proposes to lift the ban on fish exports from Sri Lanka," a commission spokesperson told AFP.

It will now be up to EU member states to endorse Colombo's removal from the blacklist that imposes the ban, which the spokesperson said could happen within two months.

Besides Sri Lanka, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Korea, the Philippines, Fiji, Belize, Panama, Togo and Vanuatu have also cracked down on illegal fishing following warnings from Brussels.

But the commission said it still had "serious concerns" about Thailand's efforts to fight illegal fishing and could not rule out further action following its warning last year.

"A meeting with the Thai authorities in May will be a new opportunity for them to show their good will and commitment," the commission said.

The EU meanwhile issued warnings to the tiny Pacific island republic of Kiribati, the west African country of Sierre Leone and the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago to do more to fight illegal fishing.

It said the island nations, for example, were failing to do enough to monitor foreign fleets operating in their waters and trace they fish they catch.

"If identified issues are not resolved within six months, the EU can consider taking further steps, including trade sanctions on fisheries imports," the commission warned.

The Commission said illegal fishing accounted for at least 15 percent of the global annual catch of between 11 million and 26 million tonnes of fish and was worth around 10 billion euros a year.

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