Stop bluefin tuna massacre in the Mediterranean | WWF

Stop bluefin tuna massacre in the Mediterranean

Posted on 16 November 2006
A man protests against the overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.
A man protests against the overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.
© WWF/Carlos G. Vallecillo
Dubrovnik, Croatia – Huge responsibility is weighing on representatives of world governments as they gather tomorrow in Croatia to decide the future of one of the most majestic fish species, the Atlantic bluefin tuna – subjected to massive illegal overfishing in the Mediterranean, says WWF.

The global conservation organization urgently advises the 42 members of ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) to consent to the strict recovery plan considered essential by ICCAT’s own scientists to avoid the imminent collapse of the fishery.

“Drastic measures are needed to save bluefin tuna from commercial and biological extinction in the Mediterranean,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “Now ICCAT must take bold decisions – or it will be too late.”

WWF published a major report in July on the huge illegal fishing of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, revealing that actual catches are more than 50 per cent over the quota set by ICCAT. This illegal activity has meant artisanal fishermen are catching 80 per cent less tuna compared to the 1990s. Stocks in the oldest fishing grounds of the Balearic Islands have collapsed, and six farms in Spain closed down this year due to lack of tuna. Most illegal fishing is carried out by EU fleets, especially France – yet the EU representative at ICCAT is still resistant to a real recovery plan.

“This destruction of the bluefin stock has to be urgently curbed,” continued Dr Tudela. “Why is the fishing frenzy being allowed to continue? What more evidence of illegality and collapse risk is needed? This year the world is watching ICCAT. The massacre has to stop.”

The collapse of bluefin tuna would mean losing an amazing species as well as endangering the marine ecosystem. A vibrant economic sector would also be jeopardised. Traditional trap fishermen, who have been sustainably fishing the species for 3,000 years, are warning that there is almost no tuna left to fish. Buyers in Japan and Europe have said they will not purchase Mediterranean bluefin tuna – until ICCAT signs in the necessary measures to protect the species. “WWF will not hesitate to push for a global boycott if the ICCAT result does not go far enough,” added Dr Tudela.

WWF requests a much reduced fishing effort. A total sustainable catch would be around 15,000 tonnes, as recommended by ICCAT scientists – which would be a third of current catches. The seasonal closure must be extended to cover May to July, thereby protecting the vulnerable spawning fish; and the minimum catch size should be increased to 30 kg when the fish reach sexual maturity. “It’s simply now or never to save bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean,” said Dr Tudela.

For more information:
Gemma Parkes
WWF Mediterranean Communications Officer
Tel: +39 346 387 3237
Email: gparkes@wwfmedpo.org
A man protests against the overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.
A man protests against the overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.
© WWF/Carlos G. Vallecillo Enlarge