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MALTATODAY 4 October 2020

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K ARL AZZOPARDI THE European Commission will be exploring the possibility of having the European Fisher- ies Control Agency patrolling lampuki fishing grounds to curb the plunder of dolphin fish by Tunisian poachers. Tensions continue to rise be- tween Maltese and Tunisian fishers, as the marauding of local fishing grounds has con- tinued well into this year's lam- puki season. Just last week, footage sent to MaltaToday showed a war of words between Gozitan fishers and poachers, after their lam- puki fishing lines in the Med- iterranean were being scouted by Tunisians. Italian fishers are also feeling the brunt, with an Italian coast- guard seen firing warning shots at a Tunisian boat that did not stop when requested. The MEP candidate Peter Agius post- ed the video as an example of how member states' authorities should be protecting the fish- ing industry against poachers. Agius has now requested EU Fisheries Commissioner Vir- ginijus Sinkevičius, for a more direct solution to the issue, as well as better collaboration be- tween Europe and Tunisia. In response to Agius's letter, the fisheries commissioner said that together with local authorities, they are exploring the involvement of the Euro- pean Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), to support measures enacted by the General Fish- eries Commission of the Med- iterranean (GFCM) last year, and entered into force on 18 April 2020. The use of EFCA was first floated by the MEP candidate last year, when the issue of Malta's problems with poach- ers on the high seas was raised in the GFCM. Such measures would include the prohibition to fish un- der Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) that have been set up by vessels from another coun- try, as well as the possibility to adopt a code of conduct for this type of fishery. "This would provide added benefits to the patrol means already employed by the Maltese government," Sinkevičius said. EFCA are already carrying out patrols in the Mediterranean Sea to ensure that tuna fishers abide by regulations. Monitor- ing takes place most intensely on purse seiners and when tu- na transfers to 'ranches' take place, when tuna are fattened and eventually slaughtered. Two observers, one from the country of origin of the purse seiner and another from the country of destination for fat- tening, are stationed on purse seiners during fishing runs. Measures related to lampuki (dolphin fish) were adopted af- ter MaltaToday broke the story on Tunisian poachers in 2019, pushing government towards a collaborative solution among Mediterranean countries, after fishers reported being threat- ened by Molotov cocktails and machetes by the Tunisians. Sinkevičius also said that the European Commission is look- ing to reinforce the control of catch certificates for imported dolphin fish. Such reinforce- ment would allow for the bet- ter detection of illegally caught fish on the EU market. "In the longer term, we are reflecting about all other possible actions we could carry out in the future in accordance with the GFCM recommendation," he said. Maltese fishers say they have been let down by the authori- ties after promised patrols by the Armed Forces of Malta to act as a deterrent for Tunisian vessels plundering their lam- puki catch, failed to material- ise. At the start of the lampuki fishing season, the Fisheries Ministry said that the AFM would be patrolling the sea where Maltese fishers lay out their fishing lines in a bid to stave off the friction with Tu- nisian fishers. In August, the authorities had assured that Maltese fishers on the high seas setting sail for this year's lam- puki season would be accom- panied by an army patrol boat that would carry out monitor- ing of the fishing grounds. maltatoday | SUNDAY • 4 OCTOBER 2020 NEWS MEP candidate Peter Agius's idea to have European Fisheries Control Agency patrol lampuki fishing grounds, being explored by Fisheries Commissioner to address recurring problem Brussels explores European patrols against lampuki poachers Maltese fishers say they have been let down by the authorities after promised patrols by the Armed Forces of Malta to act as a deterrent for Tunisian vessels plundering their lampuki catch, failed to materialise PN MEP candidate Peter Agius

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