July 3, 2006

Anchovy Fishing in Bay of Biscay Banned

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Anchovy fishing will be banned in the Bay of Biscay until the end of the year to preserve stocks, the European Commission said on Monday.

Lying off the North Atlantic coastlines of France and Spain, the Bay of Biscay is the key trawling ground for anchovy, an essential ingredient in Spanish cooking. However, years of overfishing have pushed stocks to very low levels.

The stock of adult anchovy is "well below safe biological levels," the European Union's executive arm said in a statement, adding there was a "severe risk of collapse."

The EU had already banned anchovy fishing in the Bay of Biscay from July last year to the end of February this year, a Commission spokeswoman said.

But following intense pressure from Spain and France, it had agreed to a small annual quota of 5,000 tonnes starting in March -- nearly all for Spain -- with the provision of a review in June, and the understanding that the ban would be brought back if stocks had not recovered sufficiently.

This is precisely what happened, the EU executive said, noting that the stock of adult anchovy during spawning time had fallen to an estimated 18,640 tonnes, well below a 28,000-tonne safe threshold.

The Commission said there may be limited financial aid for those affected by the ban, but did not give more details.