Brussels (AFP) Nov 17, 2010
European Union member countries on Wednesday agreed to argue in favour of a "stable or partially reduced quota" for bluefin tuna as nations met in Paris to set quotas for diminished stocks of the sushi mainstay, a diplomat said.
The EU stance, a compromise, was decided following wrangling between European Union fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki, who had advocated a reduction, and the states that want to block a reduction in the quota -- France, Italy, Malta and Spain.
In a unanimous agreement, all 27 member nations proposed to "negotiate the bluefin tuna quota between its current level of 13,500 tonnes and a partial reduction", a European diplomat told AFP.
Another diplomat said the 27 were ready to accept a reduction of 2,000 tonnes.
The 10-day meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Paris seeks a compromise between ensuring the species' future and salvaging a multi-billion-dollar business spread around the Mediterranean rim.
Last month Damanaki said she favoured "a substantial reduction" in the global 2011 quota while backtracking on her own suggestion the previous day to more than halve the figure -- from 13,500 to 6,000 tonnes.
The EU had to agree a position ahead of the Paris meeting which runs from Wednesday until November 27.
Some Mediterranean nations earlier roundly rejected the proposals by the EU's executive arm to slash the quota for catching bluefin tuna which scientists say is an endangered species.
Environmental groups such as Greenpeace argue that reducing the worldwide quota to 6,000 tonnes would give the stock a 66 percent chance to reach a sustainable level by 2020.
Japan consumes three-quarters of the global bluefin catch, known there as "kuro maguro" (black tuna) and dubbed by sushi connoisseurs as the "black diamond" because of its scarcity.
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