Stop the bluefin tuna massacre: Greenpeace asks Canada to help close the bluefin tuna fishery

Feature story - November 16, 2008
Canada plays a key role in protecting the bluefin tuna, but needs to take a stronger position at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which opens today in Marrakech, says Greenpeace Canada.

Gutting caught tuna aboard Belize flagged long line fishing vessel.

To mark the opening of the meeting, Greenpeace activists dumped some 5 tonnes of dead bluefin tuna heads in front of the French Fisheries Ministry in Paris, protesting the continued mismanagement of the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery that is leading to the commercial extinction of the species.  France is currently holding the EU presidency and has been using it to shape the EU position in favour of the short term interest of the fishing industry above the need to save the bluefin tuna stock from collapse.

"Unless serious steps are taken at this week's meeting, those countries who are members to ICCAT will wear the blame for managing the collapse of one of the most important and profitable fisheries of our time and the destruction of a way of life for the fishermen of the region," said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain Oceans Campaigner, who is attending the Marrakech meeting. Tuna populations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean fall under the 'management' of ICCAT, a body made up of government representation from 45 countries plus the European Community.

"Canada has played a key role in pushing for stronger conservation measures in the eastern tuna fishery, but we need to demand strong conservation off our own shores too,"

- Beth Hunter, Oceans coordinator for Greenpeace Canada.

In 2006, following years of extremely high levels of pirate fishing, ICCAT agreed a bluefin tuna "recovery plan" that set a 'Total Allowable Catch' of 29,500 tonnes for the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. ICCAT's own Scientific Committee recommended a sustainable limit of 15,000 tonnes. Since then the very same scientists have estimated that bluefin tuna catches were about 61,000 tonnes in 2007.

"Time and tuna are running out," said Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner François Provost, who is also attending the ICCAT meeting. "ICCAT has got it all so wrong - its so-called recovery plan is in tatters, the fishery is completely out of control and spawning grounds are being emptied out every year when they should be protected."

Greenpeace is demanding to all ICCAT Contracting Parties to close the bluefin tuna fishery immediately. It should not re-open until:

Marine reserves have been established to protect all the species' spawning grounds;Fishing capacity has decreased to sustainable levels;A new management plan in strict compliance with the scientific advice has been adopted and is being properly enforced.

"Canada has played a key role in pushing for stronger conservation measures in the eastern tuna fishery, but we need to demand strong conservation off our own shores too," said Beth Hunter, Oceans coordinator for Greenpeace Canada. While over-fishing of Mediterranean bluefin tuna has been highly profiled, the populations fished by Canada and the US are also in dire straits. The western-Atlantic breeding population of bluefin is listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union.

Bluefin tuna is on the Redlist of species which Greenpeace Canada is asking supermarkets to remove from sale to allow vulnerable species to recover and to encourage sustainable fishing and farming practices. Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering 40 per cent of our oceans as an essential way to protect our seas from the ravages of climate change, to restore the health of fish stocks and protect ocean life from habitat destruction and collapse

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