Paris, 19 November 2010 – Greenpeace stepped up its demand that the Mediterranean bluefin fishery be closed as the annual meeting of ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) begins in Paris. Greenpeace activists hung a banner outside the ICCAT conference venue that read “Bluefin Tuna: 8 Days to Live” and also brought a car with a bluefin tuna on top of it to the venue’s main entrance. Large numbers of police have now surrounded the activists and are trying to pull the banner down.
This is the final mayday call - years of overfishing, mismanagement and political failure mean that ICCAT must close the Mediterranean bluefin fishery until the species can be shown to have recovered,” said Greenpeace International oceans campaigner Oliver Knowles. “ICCAT documents released this week show that thousands of tonnes of bluefin tuna are languishing in cages in the Mediterranean, apparently unable to be sold. This begs the question- why continue to fish an endangered species if thousands of tons of it cannot be sold?
According to ICCAT documents, as much as 10,200 tonnes of bluefin tuna remain alive in cages in Mediterranean tuna farms.(1) This is close to the entire bluefin quota allocated for 2010. Most of this caged tuna was kept in Croatia (up to 4,400 tonnes), Malta (up to 2,800 tonnes) and Turkey (up to 1,900 tonnes). The majority of this tuna was caught in 2009 and remains unsold, raising serious questions about the need to fish for this endangered fish at all in coming years.
Greenpeace is demanding that this year’s ICCAT meeting produce a decision to close the Mediterranean bluefin fishery and protect key spawning grounds for the species. This year’s ICCAT meeting comes after the further exposure of significant fraud and compliance problems in the bluefin trade, years of failure to implement the body’s own scientific recommendations and following a two-month Greenpeace ship tour in the Mediterranean to stop bluefin fishing. Numerous political bodies, from the European Union to the UN Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), have all indicated that this year’s ICCAT meeting must produce a positive result for the bluefin tuna and the millions dependent on a healthy Mediterranean.
ICCAT has consistently set catch levels above those recommended by its own scientists which has resulted in years of significant overfishing. Coupled with the body’s inability to bring illegal and unregulated fishing under control this means that actual catches soar far above levels considered by scientists to be a sustainable catch. For example, the bluefin catch in 2007 alone was 61,000 tons: twice the agreed legal catch limit and four times the scientific recommended catch.
“Continued overfishing will close this fishery eventually anyway- a good decision here at ICCAT can rescue bluefin and ensure that future generations have a healthy fishery instead of empty seas. Now is the time to learn lessons from previous fishery collapses and turn the tide of ocean destruction,” concluded Knowles.
Greenpeace is campaigning for a sustainable fishing industry and for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans, necessary steps to create healthy and living oceans.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. A detailed briefing on the “carry-over” figures presented at ICCAT, please visit http://www.greenpeace.org/international/iccat2010