Game over: European Union Sinks Tuna Agreement

Tuna Commission renders itself irrelevant in fight to save the bluefin tuna

Press release - 25 November, 2008
Greenpeace has called today's outcome of the 16th Annual Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) disastrous and shameful. ICCAT has rendered itself incapable of managing the recovery of bluefin tuna stocks in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic. This creates a vacuum, which must now be filled by other fora, including through the introduction of trade restrictions under the International Convention dealing with trade in endangered species (CITES).

The European Union, representing the majority of Mediterraneancountries with interests in the bluefin tuna fishery, has bullied otherparties in the meeting into agreeing to management proposals whichcompletely fail to follow the advice of ICCAT's own scientific body tosubstantially reduce fishing and protect the species' spawning grounds.

Despite efforts by a number of concerned countries (1), they wereunable to overcome the push by the EU to refuse to adopt measures whichcould save the species from collapse. In 2009, countries will be ableto fish over 22,500 tonnes of bluefin tuna in the fishery, 7,500 tonnesover the level recommended by scientists to avoid the collapse of thepopulation. The new management plan fails to protect the spawningpopulation and merely shortens the purse seine fishing season,responsible for the bulk of illegal catches, by 10 days. The pressurefrom the European countries has been so strong that they have evenmanaged to slow down the ´payback` for the illegal catches made in theregion in 2007.

"The game is over - ICCAT has missed its last chance to save thebluefin tuna from stock collapse," said Sebastian Losada, GreenpeaceSpain Oceans Campaigner, who has been attending the Marrakech meeting."Bluefin tuna has become an endangered species because of ICCATmismanagement. It's time to take the fishery out of their hands andlook to Conventions like CITES to impose trade restrictions on thespecies."

"These past seven days have demonstrated that ICCAT is a farce - it hasrun a stock under its management into the ground and it is not evenprepared to face the consequences. The meeting has been more akin to abazaar than a state affair, with governments and industry ruthlesslybargaining for the last tuna," said Losada.

In 2006, following years of extremely high levels of pirate fishing,among others by European Union fishing vessels, ICCAT agreed a bluefintuna "recovery plan" that set a 'Total Allowable Catch' of 29,500tonnes for the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. ICCAT's ownScientific Committee recommended a sustainable limit of 15,000 tonnes.Since then the very same scientists have estimated that bluefin tunacatches were about 61,000 tonnes in 2007. (2)

Greenpeace has been calling for a closure of the fishery until a properrecovery plan is in place including at a very minimum a Total AllowedCatch (TAC) in line with the scientific advice, a seasonal closurecovering the months of May, June and July and the establishment ofmarine reserves to protect the bluefin tuna spawning grounds. (3)

"The European Union and the main fishing countries such as Spain andFrance, which currently leads the Union of 27 Member States, shouldbear the brunt of the criticism for this shameful outcome," saidGreenpeace International Oceans Campaigner François Provost. "They haveagain placed short term financial gain ahead of the long-term survivalof the species, and of the livelihood of fishermen that depend on it.ICCAT´s own independent review panel was right - ICCAT´s management ofthe fishery is an international disgrace." (4)

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protectedmarine reserves covering 40% of our oceans as an essential way toprotect our seas from the ravages of climate change, to restore thehealth of fish stocks and protect ocean life from habitat destructionand collapse

Other contacts: Further information:(In Marrakech)Michael Kessler, Greenpeace International Media Officer, +34 655 792 699Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain Oceans Campaigner, +34 626 998 254

Notes: (1) Those countries included: Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Norway, South Africa and the United States.(2) While scientists had recommended a maximum TAC of 15,000 t, the current plan approved a quota of 29,500 t in 2007, 28,500 t in 2008, 27,500 t in 2009 and 25,500 t in 2010.(3)See the Greenpeace submission to ICCAT 2008: A recently released performance review of ICCAT written by a panel of experts appointed by ICCAT itself states that "/the management by ICCAT CPCs of this bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean is widely seen as an international disgrace./" The panel itself recommends ICCAT/ "the suspension of fishing on bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean until the CPCs fully comply with ICCAT recommendations on bluefin."The panel consisted of Glenn Hurry, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the current Chairman of the WCPFC, Moritaka Hayashi, Professor (now emeritus) of International Law, Waseda University in Japan, and Jean-Jacques Maguire, a well known and respected international fisheries scientist from Canada."