Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Sicilians may just move the mattanza to Brussels

The EU is threatening to mess up salade niçoise in a big way:

The European Commission is preparing to ban fishing for bluefin tuna within EU waters to save the species from extinction.

The failure of France, Italy and Spain to observe EU limits on tuna catches and to prevent illegal fishing has finally exhausted the patience of officials across Europe.

Just this week, French boats were filmed by conservationists illegally drift-netting for tuna in the Mediterranean.

Irony number one: the biggest violators are fishermen whose governments are the most vocally in favor of EU regulation in practically every other aspect of European life. The one government most trying to comply with the quotas is Britain, whose people are among the least enthusiastic for EU regulation.

Ben Bradshaw, Britain's fisheries minister, was infuriated by the EU's failure last month to enforce Common Fisheries Policy rules.

He said that British fishermen who cheated and fished over their limit had the numbers deducted from quotas in future years.

But, to date, French, Italian and Spanish bluefin tuna fleets had simply been carrying on regardless.

French fishermen, the worst culprits according to environmental campaigners, are said to have exceeded quotas by 30 per cent last year, sparking calls from Mr Bradshaw for France to be excluded until it has reached "payback".

I wonder, if the ban passes, whether a flotilla of Sicilian fishermen will sail up to Belgium and set up a mattanza in Brussels, letting EU bureaucrats stand in for the bluefin tuna.

Which brings up irony number two: the Europeans continually carp at the USA for not doing things like signing up to the Kyoto Protocols on carbon caps. Yet here they are, flouting their own laws to exploit a natural resource past the point of sustainability. I guess it's easy to sign up to feel-good measures if you never intend to enforce them.

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