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WWF pushes for Mediterranean tuna moratorium


Rome, Italy – WWF is calling for an immediate three-year closure of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery, following a season of unprecedented illegal and uncontrolled fishing.

Official reports show that EU fishing fleets have exceeded EU catch quotas by some 4,000 tonnes. France, for example, almost doubled its national quota, fishing 10,165 tonnes by the end of August this year compared to its 5,593-tonne quota.

Other Mediterranean fishing nations, notably Italy and Turkey, are reported by the media to be involved in a web of fraud, such as laundering over-quota catches using false French catch documents.

“What more evidence is needed of the dire lack of governance in this fishery?” stresses Miguel Jorge, Deputy Director of WWF’s Global Marine Programme.

“An immediate moratorium is now the only sure way to avoid collapse.”

Business as usual
Despite being made aware of the crisis by WWF, Japanese traders — including the Mitsubishi Corporation, which accounts for some 40 per cent of Mediterranean bluefin imports to Japan — are benefiting from the stock’s mismanagement.

“Companies continuing to trade in Mediterranean bluefin are willing accomplices in the demise of this important species,” Jorge adds.

The same applies to fish farming businesses like Ricardo Fuentes e Hijos, the biggest tuna farm company in the world, which dominates the Mediterranean farming industry.

Tuna farming is the fattening in cages of wild-caught tuna. Most of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna traded in Japan passes through a tuna farm.

Suspect tuna
According to WWF, it is impossible to determine how many illegal and unreported catches across the Mediterranean fishery remain unknown. It is also hard to know whether a bluefin tuna is illegal or not.

“Quite simply if it comes from the Mediterranean, it is suspect,” Jorge says.

“What’s needed is an end to the Mediterranean bluefin fishery until further notice. It must not reopen before the stock can start to recover and sustainable management established.

WWF is calling on the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) — the body mandated to sustainably manage the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery — to push for a multi-annual closure of at least three years.

The next ICCAT meeting will take place from 9 to 18 November 2007 in Antalya, Turkey.


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