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Bluefin tuna sanctuary needed to save fish species in western Mediterranean


WWF is advocating the immediate establishment of a sanctuary for the imperilled bluefin tuna around the Balearic islands in the western Mediterranean.

Along with other international and Spanish conservation organizations working to save the marine environment — Ecologistas en Acción, GEN-GOB and Greenpeace — WWF is calling on the fisheries administrations of the European Union, the Balearic islands and Spain to set up a protected area in the archipelago to protect the species from severe overfishing.

The proposal for this sanctuary is based on scientific research by Spanish marine biologists, whose findings show the outstanding importance of the area for the breeding of the species.

The Balearic islands were traditionally the most important breeding ground for bluefin tuna in the world, but massive overfishing in the last ten years, especially by French and Spanish fleets, has seen stock levels plummet to a dangerous all-time low.

In only five years, the industrial catch of bluefin tuna in the Balearics has dropped by 85%, from 14,000 tonnes in 2001 to just 2,000 tonnes in 2006.

“Industrial tuna fleets may have exploited Mediterranean bluefin to the point of no return in Balearic waters, and the breeding tuna have nowhere left to hide,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF’s Mediterranean office based in Rome.

“We urgently need this sanctuary to give a fighting chance to the breeding bluefin that still remain. Where else can the tuna go?”

WWF is calling for legal measures to support the establishment of this bluefin sanctuary, as well as much stricter control of tuna fishing activities across the Mediterranean.

“Massive illegal fishing is allowed to continue season after season, estimated at almost 50% of all activity in the Mediterranean bluefin fishery,” added Tudela.

“Strict monitoring and observation are crucial to protect vulnerable stocks and avoid collapse.”

WWF is also calling on those involved in the fishery to get bluefin tuna on the agenda of the next meeting of ICCAT in Turkey this November, to establish an appropriate scientifically based recovery plan.


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