Greenpeace demands indefinite closure of Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery until stocks recover

Greenpeace message to ICCAT: Time and tuna are running out

Press release - October 21, 2007
Greenpeace is demanding that governments close indefinitely the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery in response to overwhelming evidence of widespread illegal and unregulated over-fishing for tuna and the complete failure of the so-called ‘bluefin tuna recovery’ plan. (1) Greenpeace wants the decision on closing the fishery to be adopted at November’s annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the body which originated the ‘recovery plan’. (2)

European Union (EU) Member States have this year fished over 20,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna - 20 per cent above their legal quota. The unsustainable level of the tuna catch has brought the stock to the verge of collapse. On 18 October, the French press publicised a new scandal surrounding bluefin tuna "laundering" involving tuna caught by Turkish vessels being declared within the French quota (3).

Over the past two years, the Greenpeace ships Esperanza and Rainbow Warrior have documented illegal fishing practices by European, Asian and North African fleets around the Mediterranean Sea. (4)  The European Commission opened infringement procedures on 26 September 2007 against seven EU Member States for failing to comply with their obligations under ICCAT (5)

"The bluefin tuna recovery plan is an utter failure," said Sebastian Losada of Greenpeace Spain." It blatantly disregards the advice of ICCAT's own scientific committee and it is simply not being enforced by governments which are parties to the ICCAT agreement."

Greenpeace believes that the Mediterranean tuna fishery is now totally out of control, with one of the highest rates of illegal fishing in the world. (6)

Greenpeace has welcomed the request by Turkey to include bluefin tuna management on the agenda of next month's ICCAT conference and the call by the US chair of ICCAT for a moratorium on the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery.

"ICCAT Members have shown they are simply not managing the bluefin tuna fishery. The industry has been emptying the Mediterranean Sea of bluefin tuna before their very eyes. The fishery must be closed before it is too late, and remain closed until the tuna population recovers," continued Losada.

On the basis of the precautionary principle, Greenpeace is calling on ICCAT Parties to close the northern bluefin tuna fishery until proper management is in place.

A range of other measures are needed, however. Greenpeace wants to see marine reserves established to protect tuna breeding areas, the advice of ICCAT scientists to be followed in setting the quota, the introduction of minimum size limits to allow the species to breed before being caught, fishing and farming capacities scaled back to sustainable quota levels, and the elimination of pirate fishing. (7)

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully-protected marine reserves covering 40 per cent of the world's oceans as an essential way to protect the full range of marine life and restore the health of fish stocks.

Other contacts: Sebastián Losada, Greenpeace Spain oceans campaigner. Phone +34 626 998 254François Provost, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner. Phone +33 623 590 963

Notes: (1) ICCAT Recommendation 2006-05: Multi-Annual Recovery Plan for Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, adopted in November 2006.(2) The 16th Annual Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas will be held in Antalya, Turkey, from 12 – 18 November 2007.(3) Midi Libre, Thursday 18 October 2007, p. 2.(4) Illegal practices documented by Greenpeace have included illegal fishing during the closed season, catches of juvenile tuna, the use of spotter planes and unregulated transhipments.(5) France, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain(6) In recent years, around 50,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna have been caught each year despite the legal quota for the species being around 32,000 tonnes.(7) For more information, refer to Greenpeace demands to ICCAT, 2007, and Greenpeace’s Contribution to the Hearing on Bluefin Tuna before the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament, Brussels, 28 June 2007 (available on request).

Exp. contact date: 2007-11-21 00:00:00