The EU’s Council of Fisheries Ministers yesterday agreed an emergency response to the fuel price “crisis” that has the right aims but includes too many potentially counter-productive measures.

After a race against the clock the European Commission put together the package of emergency measures endorsed by the Council. It is not clear why after months of raising fuel prices, all of a sudden the measures had to be rushed through Council before the summer break. Such haste resulted in the adoption of measures that will relieve the fishing sector in the short term, but will probably back-fire in the long term.

Seas At Risk and the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition welcome today's agreement by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission to protect deep-sea corals and other sensitive ecosystems from bottom fisheries.

An "extraordinary" meeting of the Commission took place in London this week involving North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) member countries Norway, Iceland, Russia, the Faroe Islands and Greenland and the European Union.

In a new report the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation calculate the losses of the world's fishing fleet due to poor management and depleted fish stocks at 50 billion US dollars per year.

Greenpeace, Seas At Risk and WWF are disappointed with today’s decision by the European Court of First Instance not to protect the waters of the Azores from a significant increase in commercial fishing.

The region supports a diverse range of marine life, including turtles, sharks, whales and dolphins and deep-sea corals, and is especially vulnerable to intensive fishing activities like trawling and longlining. The Court has ruled in favour of a 2003 decision by the Council of Ministers to open one of Europe’s best preserved deep-sea environments to the fishing fleets of all EU member states. Previously these waters were only fished by vessels from the Azores and few from mainland Portugal.

China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and India have continued to obstruct and undermine every substantial proposal for tackling GHG emissions from shipping at an IMO meeting in Oslo his week.

The International Maritime Organisation’s special greenhouse gas working group meeting, which concluded today, was tasked with carrying forward a number of key initiatives aimed at reducing GHG emissions from shipping. Despite constructive proposals from the European Commission and EU states, progress on an emissions trading scheme and a levy on marine bunker fuel were blocked entirely, while China and others took every opportunity to weaken and delay plans for design and operational indexes that would reduce CO2 emissions from new and existing ships respectively.

Twelve of Sweden’s biggest importers and exporters have signed a letter of intent that will lead to the collection of data and use of environmental criteria in their shipping procurement.

These developments show that consumer pressure and campaigns pushing for greener maritime transport can indeed change the policies of commercial enterprises – we now see a shift from a position of considering the environmental impacts of shipping as “someone else’s problem” to an acknowledgement that the way in which goods are shipped is the responsibility of purchasers.

The process to reduce GHG emissions from ships is being threatened by developing countries who fail to recognise that the shipping industry is a special case and requires a special global sectoral approach.

Environment groups welcome the Fisheries Council's decision on IUU fisheries, but strongly oppose the proposed measures to tackle rising fuel prices and regret that no precautionary measures to freeze the footprint of deep water fisheries have been adopted.

European NGOs Seas At Risk, BirdLife, Greenpeace, IFAW, Oceana and WWF have issued a common statement on the new European Maritime Policy, advocating that environmental legislation, namely the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, should be at the heart of all maritime initiatives.

Brussels, 23rd May 2008. With fishermen in France, Spain and Portugal pressing their governments for state aid to help with rising fuel bills, Seas At Risk is calling on all European governments to refuse to provide such environmentally harmful subsidies.

Seas At Risk is concerned that the 110 million euros of state aid promised by the French government will be used in this way, and that other European governments will follow suit.

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