The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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5,000 kilos of tuna allegedly smuggled to Malta each week, and exported to EU states

Sunday, 3 December 2017, 10:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

Allegations have been made that some 5,000 kilos of bluefin tuna are being smuggled into Malta each week for subsequent distribution to European Union states such as Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and France.

The allegations have been brought to the attention of Spanish European Parliamentarian Clara Eugenia Aguilera García, who has asked the European Commission if it is aware of the situation and whether it is carrying out an in-depth investigation “to get to the bottom of the issue”.

The MEP says that a relevant complaint has been lodged with “various EU agencies” by her “internal source”. She also highlights how “This tuna, evading all International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna [ICCAT] oversight, reportedly poses a risk both to the health of consumers and to the legal trade in this species.”

Sources speaking to this newspaper say that the tuna is marked as ‘tuna alalunga (albacore)’, ‘swordfish’ or just as ‘fresh fish’ when it is exported from Malta into the wider EU.

This newspaper is also informed that the illegal tuna comes into the EU destination countries by truck or by plane, and that while the ICCAT has launched an electronic ICCAT certification scheme, such measures are of little use when the fish are not declared as ‘bluefin tuna’.

The Maltese government, the Maltese police, ICCAT members, European Commission staff, the German and Dutch authorities and Greenpeace have also all been made aware of the allegations.

The source also listed three Maltese companies ‘specialising’ in the alleged illegal trade, the names of which are being withheld for the time being.

Last week, this newspaper reported sustainable fishing ENGO fish4tomorrow hitting out at the government’s recent decision to raise tuna quotas, saying that the decision lacks responsible scientific reasoning.

“It is an irresponsible interpretation of the ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) report,” fish4tomorrow told this newspaper.

“In its previous report, the SCRS noted the encouraging signs bluefin tuna was showing; however, it also noted numerous gaps in the data, such as the absence of information on illegal fishing, which accounts for a large percentage of the catch. In its previous report, the SCRS advised that bluefin tuna quotas should be left the same or only increased slightly.

“The latest SCRS report keeps more or less the same tone as the previous one. Bluefin tuna have shown encouraging signs of recovery; however the report says that ‘most of the data limitations that have plagued previous assessments remain’ and that current assessment methods need to be changed to ones that are more appropriate.”

Other concerns were expressed in the report, the ENGO said. A representative of fish4tomorrow quoted from the report: “While current controls appear sufficient to constrain the fleet to harvests at or below the total allowable catch, the Committee has not assessed the current fishing capacity and remains concerned about current capacity which could easily harvest catch volumes well in excess of the rebuilding strategy adopted by the Commission.”

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