I’m here at the opening plenary of the ICCAT meeting here in Paris, where government officials and fisheries managers are gathering to decide the fate of bluefin tuna. The question we’ve been asking for the past few days is: Will they allow fishing to continue on this hugely overfished species or do the responsible thing and close the fishery?
As the delegates and media were arriving to the ICCAT venue this morning, Greenpeace activists climbed a wall opposite the conference centre and unfurled a banner that read ‘Bluefin Tuna – 8 days to Live’ to remind everyone that the future of this iconic fish will be decided at this meeting. Within moments police and camera crews had descended on them, creating quite a scene on the busy Paris street outside. Our Tuna Mobile – a Mini with a large model tuna on its roof with the message ‘Save Me’ written on the car. It’s important that the decision-makers here know that Greenpeace supporters are closely following what happens here.
The Greenpeace Tuna Mobile at an EU meeting in Luxembourg last week
Inside the conference centre, the opening speeches got underway shortly after the banner came down. Inside the meeting, we were busy talking to journalists about a new scandal that has just emerged here based on figures released by ICCAT over the last few days. ICCAT figures reveal that up to 10,200 tonnes of bluefin tuna caught in previous years is still being kept in cages in the Mediterranean, apparently unable to be sold. It is outrageous that many countries are here at ICCAT arguing for further fishing on this hugely overexploited species, when tuna that has already been caught cannot be sold. This new information raises serious questions about the need to fish for this species at all over the coming years. This is yet another reminder that the bluefin industry will fish at any cost since their motive is short-term profit unfortunately at the expense of our tuna and our oceans.
The debate on bluefin tuna gets going today and continues through the weekend. The coming days are critical for bluefin tuna. And they are critical for ICCAT, which needs to prove that it can make decisions based on the need to protect the species and not only bow to fishing industry lobbying. Our news release today described this meeting as ‘a final mayday call’ for bluefin. Failure to take action again risks taking this incredible species to commercial extinction.
The media are starting to leave the conference now. So its time for the me and the Greenpeace team to get back inside the main meeting room and start pushing for the result that bluefin desperately needs.
Oliver Knowles is a Greenpeace International campaigner based in London, where he coordinates efforts to protect the Mediterranean Sea. He is currently in Paris for the ICCAT meeting and would very much appreciate any vegan-friendly restaurant recommendations.
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