Greenpeace demands the immediate closure of the bluefin tuna fishery
La Valletta, Malta — Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior is setting sail from La Valetta (Malta) this week to witness and document the plunder of bluefin tuna in the southern Mediterranean by the fishing industry. The international environmental organization is calling for an immediate closure of the fishery, and the creation of a network of fully protected marine reserves to protect marine ecosystem and allow exploited fish stocks to recover.
Last year the countries member to International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) failed to adopt a program to recover the population of this species, at high risk of collapse due to the amount of illegal catches in the Mediterranean region (1). Despite ICCAT’s own scientists warning that only catches lower than 15,000 tonnes would allow the population to start recovering, ICCAT approved last November a quota of 29,500 tonnes for 2007. Control measures were also approved to deal with the high level of illegal catches, but they will not enter into force until after this year’s fishing season. By that time, with the current number of ships in the area, the bluefin tuna will have suffered from another year of plunder and pirate fishing.
One of the last healthy bluefin tuna areas in the Mediterranean is north of Libya. It has been estimated that over 200 purse seiners with capacity to harvest 35,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna may concentrate in this area during the coming weeks.
Greenpeace already has indications that catches in the trap fisheries in the south of Spain and the north of Morocco have only caught 20% of what they caught by this time in 2006. The 2006 season was already one of very low catches. These traditional traps are also catching smaller tuna than in previous years confirming a very worrying trend with the largest tuna, crucial for the reproduction of the species, disappearing from the Mediterranean.
“The bluefin tuna fishery is totally out of control,” said Sebastián Losada, Greenpeace Spain oceans campaigner, in Malta. “Governments have shown their complete inability to guarantee the sustainable exploitation of this species, which is essential to Mediterranean ecosystems as well as to the region’s economy and culture. All fleets should be called back to port. Otherwise, this could be the last year for the bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean.”
According to UN Food and Agriculture Organization data, over three quarters of all commercially valuable fish stocks are already fully exploited, overexploited or depleted (2). Worldwide, up to 90% of stocks of large predatory fish like cod, tuna and swordfish have already been fished out (3).
"There is an urgent need for a radical change in the way our oceans are managed,” said François Provost, Greenpeace France oceans campaigner, in Malta. “Protection of ocean ecosystems is crucial for the millions of people who are dependent on them for their livelihoods, particularly local fishers and communities. The creation of marine reserves is the only way to both protect and restore the marine environment and to allow exploited fish stocks to recover.”
Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering 40% of our oceans as an essential way to protect the full range of marine life and restore the health of fish stocks. In Europe Greenpeace is demanding that EU member states include the provision for such a network in a new marine law, the Marine Strategy Directive. As part of this campaign, the Arctic Sunrise is in the North Sea confronting the fishing vessels which are rapidly taking the cod towards commercial extinction and the Rainbow Warrior is confronting the tuna fleets that are wiping out the last of the great fish in the Mediterranean.
Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization, which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.
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