(REUTER) Brussels, Feb 22 - The European Commission formally objected on Tuesday to a decision to slash the quota of Greenland halibut catches off southeast Canada given to the European Union fishing fleet.
The Commission, which negotiates on fisheries for the EU, is objecting to a decision taken early this month by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) to give the union a quota of 3,400 tonnes from a Total Allowable Catch of 27,000 tonnes.
"The unfairness of the quota allocated to the Community left no choice but to object to the NAFO decision, in order to safeguard the historical fishing rights of Community fishermen," Emma Bonino, EU Fisheries Commissioner, said in a statement.
The Commission said the decision does not reflect current catch trends, favours Canada and breaches the consensus-seeking tradition in NAFO, the statement said.
If its objection is accepted by EU fisheries ministers the EU will not be bound by the NAFO decision.
The Commission will later propose an autonomous quota for EU vessels, the statement said. Because of a sharp fall in stocks NAFO limited catches of Greenland halibut for the first time in September 1994.
The EU had sought around 17,500 tonnes. Canada was given 16,300 tonnes, Russia 3,200 tonnes and Japan 2,600 tonnes, with other NAFO members sharing the balance.
In the past three years the EU fleet of some 40 Spanish and Portuguese vessels has caught an average of 45,000 tonnes of Greenland halibut annually in the region, around 75 percent of the total catch.