EU agricultural and fishing ministers have determined the size of total fish catches for different species in 1999 and agreed how these should be shared out amongst member states. Meeting last week in Austria, ministers kept around three-quarters of the Commission's original proposals but raised the authorised catch sizes for some species (ENDS Daily 7 December). According to EU diplomats, the final catch sizes are still within the ranges recommended by EU scientists in order to conserve fish stocks. But environmentalists disagree, claiming that countries have "watered down" the Commission's more ambitious plans. According to the group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), parts of the ministers' deal "ignore" the scientific advice and threaten the future of certain species, in particular white fish types such as cod. Ministers also succeeded in resolving a dilemma over the fishing of bluefin tuna that will allow Greece and Italy some - albeit significantly curtailed - fishing rights. The two countries had faced a virtual ban on fishing tuna following a penalty ruling by the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas for severe over-fishing in previous years. But France, Spain and Portugal have agreed to share some of their allowance for next year with them. Nevertheless, Greece and Italy voted against the deal.
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