Headlines: Strike paralyses 92 per cent of fishing activity; Dismay at Colombia's decision not to enforce tuna ban; Spanish fishing ban extended to Portugese border
Strike paralyses 92 per cent of fishing activityWith 18,000 fisheries workers on strike, an estimated 92 per cent of fishing activity is grinding to a halt, as the largest fleet in the Caribbean remains in port. The chambers of commerce and trade associations' federation Fedecámaras and the opposition group Democratic Coordinator called the strike on 2 December to protest against the new Fishery Law approved by the Government and another 45 laws that affect the quality of life of Venezuelan citizens. The fisheries sector argues that renewing fishing permits, or obtaining the new ones required, is too expensive. A fishing permit used to cost VEB 500,000-800,000 (USD 375-600) depending on the vessel's tonnage. Now it costs VEB 1.5 - 8 million (USD 1,125-5,992). Fishermen also complain that the new law allows the fleet to fish six miles off the coast, instead of the previous three miles. They believe their vessels are being denied access to important fishing grounds in the east of the country, while an agreement allows vessels from Trinidad to fish just two miles off the coast. Federation of Fishing Associations (Fenapesca) president Guido Solari said tuna vessels have to go through many formalities to get their permits and some trawlers have received offers from other countries to change their flags, which would seriously damage Venezuela's industrial fishing sector. Solari said industrial and trawler fishing couldn't operate under the terms proposed by the new Fishery Law. He said the law must be reviewed as the payments and penalties it proposed were excessive and it should also include regulations to give the sector more security. Fenapesca is now seeking annulment of this law based on its unconstitutionality and has filed a legal challenge with the Supreme High Court (TSJ). President Hugo Chávez claims the new Fishery Law will help the sector to develop, especially artisanal or small-scale fishing, and that it gives priority to protecting the marine ecosystem, which he said is threatened by trawler fishing. The President called on sector representatives to negotiate the regulations that would enforce the new law but his decision not to amend the law, in consultation with the sectors concerned, led to the suspension of negotiations and the call for strike action. Venezuela's fleet, which comprises 436 trawlers and 70 tuna vessels, produces approximately 77 per cent of the fish that is consumed domestically. Fishery exports earned USD 120 million last year, accounting for 50 per cent of domestic, non-traditional agriculture exports. But a 30 per cent reduction in the industrial fisheries sector during the first half of 2002 meant substantial losses for producers. This current situation is posing a threat to the livelihoods of 25,000 families who depend directly on fishing and another 75,000 who depend on it indirectly.
Dismay at Colombia's decision not to enforce tuna ban The fisheries authorities are dismayed at Colombia's decision not to participate in this month's tuna ban, as recommended by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), and are criticising their counterparts for damaging fisheries interests
Fishery Resources Undersecretary Heinz Moller Freile wants his government to write to his Colombian counterpart objecting to "his decision to go against the conservation measures adopted within the framework of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission."
Fisheries Undersecretary Rafael Trujillo Bejarano also suggests trade restrictions should be applied to tuna from Colombian-flagged vessels, to be consistent with other countries' demands on Ecuador.
"The decision of Colombia's government seriously impairs national fishery interests and weakens our regional fishery management organisation, as is the case of IATTC," said Trujillo.
He said it is "insulting" for the Colombian authorities to accuse fleets using fish aggregation devices (FADs) of being plunderers. He said this is not the case and also alleged that Colombia used more questionable methods of tuna fishing.
Colombia is not an IATTC member but does participate in the Agreement on the International Programme for Dolphin Conservation, APICD.
Colombia's National Fishery and Aquaculture Institute (INPA), officially informed IATTC that Colombia would not enforce the biological ban on three tuna species scheduled for this month.
According to INPA, the ban would have "serious repercussions on the already precarious state of employment, social security and job stability, at a time when the right to work has been acknowledged as a constitutionally fundamental right for Colombians."
The only body in Ecuador that has not accepted the ban is Inepaca, a branch of a Colombian company, which has filed a legal challenge against it. Spanish fishing ban extended to Portugese border
Spanish fishing ban extended to Portugese borderOfficials in north-western Spain on Wednesday extended a ban on fishing and shellfish harvesting as far south as Portugal as stinking thick fuel from a sunken oil tanker spread out across the Galician coast. Spain also kept vigilant watch over another ageing tanker, loaded with heavy fuel oil, that was banned from French waters on Tuesday and escorted further out in the Atlantic. And France began prepping an emergency plan to rescue its coasts from the northward creep of pollution from the Prestige, which dumped between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea off the coast of Galicia on 19 November. The fishing ban extends southward down to the Mino river separating Spain from Portugal, and up to Cedeira, some 100 kilometres north of La Coruña, for fishing, and to nearby Seixo Blanco for shellfish harvesting. Officials stressed the ban was extended "as a precaution" in light of the spread of slicks that have coated hundreds of kilometres of some of Spain's most picturesque coastline and paralysed the fishing- and tourism-dependent local economy. But, they added, it notably included Galicia's famous gooseneck barnacles, regional specialities that are a traditional dish in Spain for Christmas holiday feasts. Clinging in ragged clumps to coastal rocks, the crustaceans would be nearly impossible to clean once coated in the viscous oil. Locals who depend on the sea for their livelihood and who have been robbed of lucrative holiday sales will be compensated around EUR 40 a day by the state, but the loss in earning is a blow for a sector that raises EUR 475 million a year for the region -- 10 per cent of its total economic output. Mussel breeders on Wednesday continued their frantic efforts to protect the seafood-rich Baixas inlet, home to Europe's largest production of mussels. For the second straight day, hundreds of fishermen scooped up globs of the sticky fuel with their own nets and shovels, deploying their trawlers as a makeshift barrier against the sludge. The Galician regional government was shipping stocks of foul weather gear, gloves and protective masks, along with containers to stock collected fuel, to the coast. But the move has not stemmed local fury at Madrid's lack of preparation, despite four previous oil spill disasters along the same coast in less than 30 years. Battered by changing tides and winds in notoriously rough seas, oil split into long slivers and tar-like blobs has travelled far from the wreckage of the 26-year-old Prestige, registered in Liberia but flying a Bahamas flag of convenience. French naval and customs planes spotted oil patches in a fly-over located around 250 to 300 kilometres from France's Gascony coast. Slicks from the Prestige were also spotted 26 kilometres off the northern coast of Portugal, and could reach the coastline later Wednesday, Portuguese Defence Secretary Henrique Freitas said. The French transport ministry has launched an anti-pollution plan authorising deployment of naval ships and requisitioning of private craft to fight the approaching oil. France's Brittany coast -- also largely dependent on tourism and fishing -- was badly hit in 1999 when the tanker Erika foundered, spewing thousands of tonnes of crude oil and spurring public outrage. At the current rate of progress of around 20 kilometres a day, the Prestige spill is not expected to reach France for another two weeks. "There's no panic, we are not yet affected, but we are taking a precautionary measure so that the resources will be ready in case the pollution reaches the French coast," junior transport minister Dominique Bussereau said on Tuesday. Meanwhile Spain dispatched its naval frigate Baleares to make sure the 24-year-old Malta-registered Enalios Titan, banned from France, stayed out of its waters. The ship, en route from Latvia to Singapore, is carrying 87,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil -- the same product involved in the Prestige disaster, the French navy said. The French mini-sub Nautile stood by on Wednesday for another survey of the Prestige, lying 3,500 metres below sea level. A first inspection had failed to reveal any new leakage from the hull containing some 60,000 tonnes of fuel oil cargo that went down with the wreck.