Tuna commission gets worse and fails on bluefin tuna, condemns sharks and endorses the use of illegal "walls of death"

Press release - 16 November, 2009
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has failed once again to act beyond the interests of a few tuna fishing and farming industries, warned Greenpeace today. Again it has approved recommendations which fail to ensure the recovery of Atlantic bluefin tuna, one of the most overexploited fisheries worldwide.

The latest available science shows that to have only a 50% chance of stocks recovering by 2023 then an annual eastern Atlantic catch limit of 8,000 tonnes would need to be imposed. Despite repeated calls for the closure this fishery, the European Community, Mediterranean fishing states and Japan forced a new catch level set at 13,500 tonnes, from the current 19,950t.

"Yet again, ICCAT has failed to give bluefin tuna any chance of recovery. It has also confirmed that fishing states are unable to enforce their own control measures or seriously address their fishing fleet's overcapacity," said François Provost, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner. "A ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna is now the only remaining chance to save the iconic fish from commercial extinction".

Throughout the discussions it was apparent that ICCAT members were desperate to set new quota limits to avoid the pending threat of a ban on international trade in bluefin tuna. Last month, the Principality of Monaco submitted a proposal to that effect to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

ICCAT's own scientists recently demonstrated that the current bluefin tuna reproductive population is less than 15 per cent of what it once was before fishing began - meaning Atlantic bluefin tuna meets the criteria for a such a trade ban under CITES Appendix I listing.(1)

ICCAT member states also failed to agree any serious measures to protect depleted species of sharks, sea turtles and seabirds. Once more the only thing they could agree on is to "look at this important issue next year".

On top of it all, and contrary to resolutions of the UN General Assembly, ICCAT members even allowed Morocco to keep using illegal driftnet pelagic gear until 2012.(2) Such nets have been dubbed as "walls of death" and illegal Moroccan driftnets targeting swordfish for the European market are known to kill around 4,000 dolphins and 25,000 pelagic sharks annually in the Western Mediterranean Sea. This measure was strongly supported by the EU - represented in Recife by the European Commission, as well as the United States (4).

The extent of ICCAT's failure and of other fisheries management organisations to act responsibly over marine resources can no longer be ignored. It drives the urgent need to move from the current fragmented management model towards an integrated governance system that is based on a precautionary ecosystem approach and specifically provides for the establishment of an effective network of large scale marine reserves on the high seas (5).

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves, covering 40% of our oceans. They are essential to ensure clean and healthy oceans and protect marine life from over fishing and habitat destruction. Healthy oceans can also play a vital role in building resilience against the devastating effects of climate change.

Other contacts: Yesim Aslan, Greenpeace International Communications: + 90 532 316 73 65Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Internacional Oceans policy adviser + 34 626 998 254François Provost, Greenpeace International Oceans campaigner: +33 623 590 963

Notes: 1) A guide to the results of the ICCAT scientists’ report of 21-23 October:http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/releases/atlantic-bluefin-tuna-trade-ba http://assets.panda.org/downloads/pr_10_29_2009_iccat_scientists_say_yes_to_cites___guide.pdfThis guide has been developed by WWF, Greenpeace and The Pew Environment Group, all of which participated in the ICCAT scientific committee meetings.2) The use of pelagic drift net gears is prohibited under United Nations General Assembly Resolutions (UNGA Resolutions n. 44/255 e n. 46/215), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT Recommendation 03-04), the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) , the European Union (EC Regulation EC/1239/98).3) Biological Conservation 121 (2005) 65-78.4) “Mediterranean marine governance: A vision for a sustainable future”.http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/mediterranean-marine-governanc