Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishing spiralling out of control
06 Oct 2006 - Rome, Italy – Evidence that Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishing is spiralling out of control emerged today as scientists from around the world met to discuss the status of the fishery.
The scientists, gathering at a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) , have discovered that French fishing fleets are reporting bluefin tuna catches of more than 50 per cent in excess of their official quota. The scientists also launched an alarm call that bluefin tuna will soon be lost forever from the Mediterranean if no action is taken.
“This is one more example of rogue behaviour which has led to the grave threat of collapse we are now facing,“ said Paolo Lombardi, Director of WWF’s Mediterranean Programme. ”We suspect that other EU fleets are also not declaring their real catches"
France’s official quota for fishing bluefin tuna was 6,192 tonnes in 2005, yet its fleets reported a staggering 9,455 tonnes of catches. This equates to well over 3,000 tonnes being illegally fished in 2005 alone by French fleets. WWF had already warned in July that France reported to the EU a similar level of illegal fishing in 2004. Among the EU tuna fleets, France has one of the highest quotas set by ICCAT.
“This overfishing is highly likely to result in the EU as a whole considerably exceeding its quota,” Lombardi added.
The scientists attending the ICCAT meeting are advocating an extension to the current seasonal closure of the fishery to cover the entire spawning period of May through July, and are calling for a significant increase in the minimum landing size up to 30kg. The scientists also estimate that a short-term sustainable catch across the Mediterranean should be limited to 15,000 tonnes per year — effectively less than one-third of the current total catch.
“There can now be absolutely no further doubt as to what needs to be done if we are serious about saving our tuna,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “The ICCAT, and in particular, the EU, will be responsible for the loss of bluefin tuna if it does not give its full support to plans for stock recovery.”
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