UNITED NATIONS, May 30 (Tierramérica) - Several environmental groups are demanding an international moratorium on bottom trawling, a fishing technique that destroys seabed ecosystems. But the proposal did not win consensus amongst the delegates taking part in a UN conference on fish stocks.
Many participants in the first meeting for review of the United Nations Agreement on Fish Stocks, signed in 1995, recognised that bottom-trawling is an issue of concern, but they proved to be indecisive about how to tackle it.
Bottom trawling involves dragging heavy nets along the sea floor. Metal plates and rubber wheels attached to the nets move across the seabed and crush nearly everything in their path, according to the international environmental watchdog Greenpeace.
The group says that at least 200 vessels from 11 countries practice this type of fishing, and the species living in the sea depths take decades, and even centuries, to recover.
"There are many proposals to put a limit on their capacity (vessels with bottom-crawlers)... At the ministerial level, we have heard many calls for action," said David Balton, U.S. representative and chairman of the UN conference, held May 22-26 at the UN headquarters in New York.
But he noted that the stronger measures that have been put forward so far to combat illegal fishing are mainly confined to satellite tracking systems of fishing vessels and strict controls at ports.
"Pirate fishing is a global problem that requires a global solution," said Sari Tolvanen, of Greenpeace, in a statement urging the world community to endorse an immediate UN ban on all high seas bottom trawling.
The group released a new report on May 23 detailing the activities of five high seas fishing trawlers that continue to make safe havens of European harbors at the expense of vulnerable deep sea life, despite being blacklisted by the European Union and North Atlantic Fisheries Commission last year.
The report points out that over the past six months the blacklisted trawlers changed their names and flags and received services in Germany, Lithuania, and Poland before sailing back to their old fishing grounds.
Greenpeace also said it found 64 vessels fishing in the international waters of the Irminger Sea in the North Atlantic, an area known as habitat for cold water corals.
Nevertheless, opponents of the proposed moratorium say there is no scientific study to prove that bottom trawling is having adverse impacts on marine ecosystems.
"It makes no sense," said Javier Garat Pérez, vice president of the International Coalition of Fisheries Association, which represents industry's interests. "It's not a solution," he told Tierramérica, adding that instead of placing a ban on bottom trawling, governments should be taking more steps to curb illegal fishing.
But those concerned about the impact of fishing vessels with bottom crawling equipment disagree.
"While the science is being done, we don't know fully what the effects are," Harlan Cohen of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), an environmental group that closely works with the UN, said in a Tierramerica interview. He said his group supports the idea of an interim prohibition.
Delegates also seem to hold diverse opinions on whether regional efforts could prove a better alternative to placing an international moratorium on bottom trawling.
The UN conference focused on efforts to strengthen the 1995 UN Agreement on Fish Stocks, which aims to ensure responsible fishing of highly migratory and other species that straddle the boundaries between national jurisdiction and the high seas.
So far only 56 countries have signed this agreement, while six of the world's top 10 fish producing countries, including Japan and China, remain outside the accord.
"The level of participation needs to grow to give the agreement broader support," said David Doulman, of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in a statement, which also stressed the need for increased assistance to developing countries to meet their obligations under the agreement.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace thinks that "global nature of fishing piracy" suggests that no individual government actions could prove effective in the absence of an internationally agreed moratorium on bottom trawling.
The group is considering launching a new campaign in favor of its demand for moratorium by gathering a million signatures by the end of February 2007. Venezuela: Biodiversity Contest CARACAS - The environmental organization Vitalis convened on May 22 a contest of ideas to learn about and preserve Venezuelan biodiversity, targeting university students from all fields and a awarding a trip to Germany for the 10 project winners.
Venezuela has "advanced legislation, which declares as public utility the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as restoration and environmental services," which requires "sharing knowledge and ideas of young people," Vitalis president Diego Díaz told Tierramérica.
Díaz noted that Venezuela is one of the planet's 12 most megadiverse countries, with some 117,000 species registered, including 16,000 higher plants, 1,380 birds, 355 mammals, 341 reptiles, 284 amphibians and 1,800 fish species. The deadline for presenting proposals is September.
Brazil: New Formula for Cleaner Diesel
RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's national oil giant Petrobras has developed the formula H-Bio, which adds hydrogenated vegetable oil to diesel, improving the quality of the fuel and reducing pollution.
The innovation, which will make its debut in 2007 with 10 percent vegetable oil but is effective with up to 18 percent, promises to expand agriculture-based energy sources and contribute to improving the global environment.
Brazil will thus reduce its diesel imports and open a new market for plant-based oils -- which is a cause of concern to some environmental groups.
The negative side is that it would increase monoculture of soybeans, which contributes to the deforestation of the Amazon and other ecosystems, Délcio Rodrigues, energy expert for the environmental group Vitae Civilis, told Tierramérica.
US-Cuba Research on Humboldt National Park Presented
Havana, May 30 (Prensa Latina) A study of US and Cuban researchers on the Alejandro Humboldt National Park is contained in a book presented today in Guantanamo.
Printed in the United States, the title "Biological Quick Inventory Number 14" has 368 pages referred to the Park located in the eastern provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba and Holguin, which has been recognized as Heritage of Humanity, reports Juventud Rebelde Tuesday.
Biological (and Social) quick inventories are actions to update knowledge on biodiversity in a certain natural area, which allow to adopt conservation measures of that place's value and the education of surrounding communities.
The Humboldt National Park keeps around one thousand plant species, one third of all those reported in Cuba and many endemic to this zone, representative of the Caribbean rain forests.
Its impressive and vast ecosystem is the best conserved in the country and practically virgin due to depopulation and difficult access to this zone.
Reporting on the meeting held yesterday at the Government House in Montevideo to explain actions by Uruguay’s Government on the issue, Clarín says that two experts who were part of the former administration of President Jorge Battle and the Environment Minister Mariano Arana stressed that the technical requirements for the two factories under construction in Fray Bentos are tighter than those required in Europe for similar plants. They also noted that “Argentina has given its approval to the plants in due time and according to the legal documents signed between the two countries”. The article underscores the immediate reaction of the Foreign Minister of Argentina Jorge Taiana, who said yesterday night that “there was no agreement with Uruguay to modify the Statute of the Uruguayan River of 1975 which is fully in force, and Argentina has to present the case to the ICJ, as it is established in said Statute”. Uruguayan daily El País stresses that President Vázquez had been able to demonstrate strong internal cohesion around the issue in a meeting during which he didn’t speak