EU to look into Libyan fishing zone decision

EU to look into Libyan fishing zone decision Herman Grech

The European Commission is to look into Libya’s controversial decision to create a so-called Libyan Fishing Preservation Zone in the Mediterranean, which Maltese fishermen say will have catastrophic consequences on the size of their catches.

Fishermen contacted yesterday said their catches could drop by half if Libya decided to forge ahead with its decision to establish an area of fishing “under Libya’s sovereignty 62 miles from the line of the regional sea”.

A spokesman for EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said the commissioner could not intervene in issues related to demarcation lines but would get involved in issues that ultimately affected fishing rights.

“The Commission is to contact member states about the matter and the issue may be raised at a meeting between the Commission and the member states later this week,” the spokeman said.

The Libyan government surprised the European Commission, the United Nations and its neighbouring states when it informed them that any kind of fishing, either local or foreign, was forbidden in this zone unless authorisation was granted according to the laws and regulations of the Jamahariya.

Malta’s Foreign Ministry immediately expressed its concern and requested more information from the Libyan authorities. In a note verbale to the Libyan government, the ministry said that on the basis of the information provided, the decision would affect the historical fishing grounds of Maltese fishermen who used traditional fishing methods fully consistent with conservation policies.

A spokesman said the Maltese government was still waiting for the coordinates from the Libyan government and there was no point in getting involved in a controversy before the facts were established.

The government has requested the suspension of the application and of the enforcement of the decree and has asked its Libyan counterparts to start a dialogue on coordinating a common approach to the preservation of fisheries in the area.

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