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Rich Asians threaten high-value fish: experts
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Jan 24, 2012

The growing ranks of wealthy Asians and their increasing appetite for more expensive fish are threatening stocks, potentially causing wider environmental damage, experts at a UN conference said on Tuesday.

As Asians became more prosperous, they prefer to eat more "high-value" species, forcing fishermen to catch more of them even if it means using environmentally harmful and illegal methods, they said.

"Increased wealth, especially in Asia," had raised demand for more expensive fish like certain groupers and tunas, said Jackie Alder, head of the marine coastal office of the UN Environment Programme.

"They are no longer satisfied with anchovies," she told reporters on the sidelines of a UN conference on oceans in the Philippine capital.

She warned that fish production had stabilised at 80 million tonnes in the 1980s and scientists believed that it would not go any higher.

"There is no doubt that changing lifestyles and eating habits are having an effect on resources," said Jerker Tamelander, head of the UN Environment Programme's coral reef unit.

He cited the case of live groupers which are in such demand in Asia that fishermen use cyanide to stun them and catch them alive, even if this kills other fish and harms coral reefs.

Even then, many of these groupers die during transport across Asia, he warned.

"There is high mortality, high transport costs but also high returns."

Depleting the stocks of high-value fish could also upset the balance of nature in coral reefs, possibly leading to their degradation, he added.

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Bulgaria bans Danube, Black Sea sturgeon fishing for 4 years
Sofia (AFP) Jan 24, 2012 - Bulgaria has imposed a four-year ban on fishing for sturgeon on the River Danube and in its Black Sea waters, the farming ministry said Tuesday.

The restrictions cover four sturgeon species, all threatened with extinction, and was prompted by the need to protect their populations and align Bulgaria's rules with a 10-year ban imposed in 2006 across the Danube in Romania, it said.

"In the case of chance catching of sturgeon specimens, these should be immediately returned to the waterway where they were caught," the statement added.

It also outlawed the transportation and sale of wild sturgeon and sturgeon products in Bulgaria, apart from those breeded artificially for their expensive caviar.

The Black Sea is the second largest source of sturgeon in the world after the Caspian Sea, and the Danube upstream is one of the most important spawning habitats for giant Beluga sturgeon.

An ancient fish that outlasted the dinosaurs, sturgeon has been critically endangered by overfishing for its caviar, which can cost over 6,000 euros (7,800 dollars) per kilogramme.

Bulgaria imposed a first one-year ban on sturgeon fishing last year.

Both Sofia and Bucharest were meanwhile urged by the environmental group WWF in November to strengthen their regulations to battle persistent poaching and illegal trade in sturgeon caviar.


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Stranded baby seals concern Dutch rescuers
Pieterburen, Netherlands (AFP) Jan 23, 2012
A month ago, a young seal named Marco washed up on a beach on the northern Dutch Frisian island of Ameland, one of a growing number of recently stranded pups that has left his rescuers worried. Cold, hungry and riddled with parasites, Marco was taken to the Zeehondencreche (seal nursery), the country's oldest and largest seal rehabilitation centre on the Dutch north coast. Marco's arriva ... read more

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